The seemingly biggest news from yesterday’s primaries emerged from California, where it became clear that very rich women can now buy public office as easily as very rich men. Turning elsewhere, however, reading the subtext of another primary victory, one not grounded in the size of an aspirant’s personal checking account, one sees a truly epic battle shaping up for the future of financial markets — and given the the importance of these markets, perhaps the future of the American economy as well.
Senator Blanche Lincoln won her renomination primary in Arkansas. She’s a Clintonesque middle-of-the-road Democrat, whose voting record earned her the vast distaste of left-leaning groups and unions that tried to defeat her. There was one other group that disliked her even more. Wall Street’s big investment banks. And therein lies a tale.
There’s a terribly important financial reform bill that has passed both houses of Congress, with its final form now being decided in committee. The Obama Administration, Geithner and company at Treasury, Barney Frank in the House, and the Democratic establishment generally, who don’t want to lose big campaign contributions from the heavy hitters on The Street, are all pushing for a final reform package that doesn’t keep Wall Street investment banks from proprietary trading of derivatives, their biggest money maker.
Senator Lincoln, the head of the agricultural committee in the Senate, inserted a measure in that body’s version of the reform bill that would do just that. It was this bit of populism, this let’s-really-reform-Wall Street effort, that got her renominated in Arkansas’ Senate race. And Senator Lincoln sits on the House-Senate committee that will have to come up with a final version of a financial reform bill.
So here it comes. The epic battle between one woman and her desire to get reelected on the one issue that could get her reelected — a populist screetch against a still mindlessly greedy Wall Street — and Timmy, Barney, Barack and the other Washington big boys who amazingly still think that being really hard on Wall Street is a naughty thing to do.
Looking at this looming conflict one can only shout: Go, girl. Go!
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