What’s bad for the coffers is good for the reputation

WHAT’S BAD FOR THE COFFERS IS GOOD FOR THE REPUTATION…. Yesterday, the Washington Post and Politico both ran articles about Wall Street elites — hedge fund managers, bankers, financial services executives — moving away from the Democratic Party. The more Dems have pushed for new accountability and safeguards for the industry, the more the industry has curtailed its support for the party. The Wall Street Journal also recently noted the industry’s growing love for Republicans.

Yesterday, the official Twitter feed for the Republican National Committee rejoiced: “Dems Rapidly Losing Wall Street Donors,” followed by a link to the WaPo piece.

I understand the logic here — less money for Dems, and more money for Republicans, obviously makes the RNC happy. But there’s a flip-side to all of this.

It’s often overlooked, but Wall Street really isn’t popular with the public right now. Those hedge fund managers, bankers, financial services executives who don’t like Democrats and are moving closer to the GOP because Republicans oppose stronger industry safeguards? They’re the ones who nearly destroyed the global financial system in 2008.

Republican officials in D.C. were giddy about these media reports, but they may not realize that tensions between Democrats and Wall Street aren’t necessarily a political loser when Wall Street is widely hated.

[T]he White House and various Democratic campaign organizations don’t seem to be bothered — if anything, operatives see some benefit to the storyline that the barons of Wall Street favor the GOP.

The logic is fairly straightforward, according to a senior White House aide: At a time when the financial sector is held in poor repute, any association with its chieftains can be politically toxic. Passing financial regulatory reform (and being punished by Wall Street for it) can put a candidate in a sympathetic light among voters.

“In terms of the conversation with voters in this election, there is no question that contributions from Wall Street are an issue and for Democratic candidates to be able to run without those contributions is a plus,” said Steve Rosenthal, the president of the Organizing Group, a DC consulting firm, and former political director of the AFL-CIO.

I’m actually a little surprised to see Republicans so tone-deaf on this. After Wall Street’s recklessness sent the economy into a brutal recession, and the industry was rescued by a deeply unpopular bailout, a lot of Americans started holding Wall Street in fairly low regard. And yet, the party not only boasts about the industry’s new-found love for the GOP, it also backs Senate candidates like Ohio’s John Kasich and Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey, who are running directly from their posts on Wall Street.

In RNC Chairman Michael Steele’s case, he went so far as to suggest Americans should trust the financial industry that brought the global system to its knees to now grow the economy and create jobs.

It seems hard to imagine most voters finding this persuasive.