The 2016 Republican Party wants to repeal most of the financial regulations passed in the wake of the 2008 crisis. They also would like to give the wealthiest people on Wall Street an enormous tax cut, while making it legal for financial advisers to gamble with retirees’ money (again). Oh, and they want to reinstate Glass-Steagall’s prohibition on commercial banks engaging in investment business. Which is to say, they want to break up the big banks.
One of these things is not like the others.
On Monday, Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort told reporters that the GOP platform would include a call for reinstating Glass-Steagall, a Depression-era law that was repealed under President Clinton in the late ‘90s. A 21st-century Glass-Steagall Act was a centerpiece of Bernie Sanders’s insurgent campaign, and became one of the key dividing lines in the Democratic primary. While the Democratic Party’s platform backs the act’s reinstatement, Hillary Clinton has yet to embrace it — a point Manafort was eager to highlight.
“We believe that the Obama-Clinton years have passed legislation that has been favorable to the big banks, which is one of the reason why you see all of the Wall Street money going to her,” Manafort told Bloomberg. “We are supporting the small banks and Main Street. We talk about legislation that affects, you know, some of the mistakes made in repealing Glass-Steagall and some of the mistakes made in imposing Dodd-Frank. The platform reflects those things.”
It’s hard not to see the Trump campaign’s latest gesture to Sandersism as anything but a wholly cynical political ploy. The chances of a new Glass-Steagall passing a GOP Congress are exceptionally slim. And any legislation that broke up the big banks — while repealing all of Dodd-Frank’s regulations — would probably be a net win for Wall Street. Trump isn’t embracing Glass-Steagall out of ideological principle, but rather because the Democratic rank and file support it — while Bill and Hillary Clinton do not.
Regardless, the fact that the Republican standard-bearer sees a political benefit in pretending to be to the left of Clinton on financial reform is noteworthy. In so many ways, this ain’t Mitt Romney’s party anymore.