Wall Street as a New York State of Mind

Nestled in a long Prospect interview of Walter Shapiro by Harold Meyerson on All Things Hillary is a nugget that’s worth pondering:

[T]he worst thing that could have happened to her in terms of framing any economic populist message was to run for the Senate from New York rather than, say, Arkansas. Not only do the Clintons have a certain psychological need for money—that would probably be a separate course in the Department of Hillary Studies—but her constituents were Wall Street, and they were also the people who were funding all the Clinton initiatives and giving speaking fees to Bill.

Usually “populist” Democrats blame the solicitude of the Clintons (and other “centrist” Democrats) on either ideology or plain corruption. But in some cases, and not only with respect to “centrists,” tending to powerful industries has been a matter of constituent service and “bringing home the bacon.” It’s an observation that was made in Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson’s 2011 book, Winner-Take All Politics, which concluded the favoritism showed the financial industry by congressional Democrats in the 1990s owed as much to geography as ideology.

In terms of HRC, you can conclude, as Shapiro apparently did, that she’s been affected permanently by this affinity to the financial industry. But you could also conclude that free of both the White House culture of her husband’s administration and of service to New York as a senator, HRC is also free to adopt a far more independent attitude towards Wall Street. We may just have to wait and see.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.