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September 15, 2015

PRESIDENT GOLDMAN SACHS HARDEST HIT: Wall Street’s latest panic: Trump could win:

The CEO of one large Wall Street firm, who declined to be identified by name criticizing the GOP front-runner, said the assumption in the financial industry remains that something will eventually knock Trump off and send voters toward a more establishment candidate. But that assumption is no longer held with strong conviction. And a dozen Wall Street executives interviewed for this article could not say what might dent Trump’s appeal or when it might happen.

“I don’t know anyone who is a Donald Trump supporter. I don’t know anyone who knows anyone who is a Donald Trump supporter. They are like this huge mystery group,” the CEO said. [Shades of Pauline Kael! — Ed] “So it’s a combination of shock and bewilderment. No one really knows why this is happening. But my own belief is that the laws of gravity will apply and those who are prepared to run the marathon will benefit when Trump drops out at mile 22. Right now people think Trump is pretty hilarious but the longer it goes on the more frightening it gets.”

The latest frightening broadside for the Wall Street class came on Sunday when Trump said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that executive pay in America is “a complete joke” and promised to raise taxes on “the hedge fund guys.” In a statement sent to POLITICO on Monday from his campaign, Trump relished in the attacks from Wall Street, singling out both Bush and Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, another favorite on Wall Street.

“Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton will continue to let Wall Street and the ‘hedge fund guys’ rip off the people by paying no or very little in taxes,” Trump said. “They have total and complete control of Hillary, Jeb and others running. My campaign is self- funded. The only people that have control of me are the people of the United States.”

By the time of the 2008 election, Wall Street abandoned Republicans, preferring Michael Bloomberg’s nanny state and Barack Obama’s arugula to the GOP’s traditional values, as Kevin D. Williamson wrote the following year:

Wall Street isn’t politically agnostic, and there’s more to its politics than money. Culture matters, and you won’t find a lot of Pentecostal churches in Greenwich, Conn. Wall Street guys, for the most part, do not have time for social conservatives. “Of course these guys aren’t conservative,” says one longtime bond trader. “Why the [expletive deleted] would they be? We’re talking about guys who live in Manhattan, guys with manicures and eight-figure bank balances. And their wives–their wives aren’t showing up at parents’ day at Brearley with a Sarah Palin button. It’d be like showing up in flip-flops from Wal-Mart. Like showing up in a [rather lengthier expletive deleted] tracksuit.”

This cultural divide is particularly visible in New York City politics. “Ten to 15 years ago, half of the Upper East Side [officeholders] were Republican,” says John Mills, executive vice president of the Lexington Democratic Club. “There’s not one Republican there now. Abortion and gay rights are two of the biggest issues, and there are a lot of Jewish voters here not comfortable with Christian conservatives.”

Wall Street has no love for the southern, rural, and evangelical. But it’s not just the Jesus stuff–the southern and rural parts matter, too: Republican congressmen tend to represent places like Glasscock County, Texas, America’s most Republican jurisdiction, which reliably gives 90-odd percent of its votes to the GOP. Those districts are not going to feel the pain of the financial markets the way New York, New Jersey, California, and Connecticut are. The bailout is not very popular in farm country. Wall Street knew there was a gathering storm in the markets, and it didn’t want to find itself at the mercy of small-town and rural Republicans’ riding to the rescue.

And thus, the birth of the man Glenn likes to call “President Goldman Sachs.”

As Kevin noted, Wall Street abandoned the American heartland in 2008, so it shouldn’t be at all surprised to discover that someone showing up with an anti-Wall Street message resonates with voters there. I’m disappointed it’s a rather punitive and populist message than a conservative one, but historically, fire and brimstone populism has always allowed a candidate to position himself as the champion to a large group of disenfranchised voters.