One does not envy Democratic New York Senator Chuck Schumer these days.
Against the backdrop of national outrage over the banking industry and a major party push to get a reform bill done, Schumer must now choose between the lifeblood of his state and the populist zeitgeist of his party.
Schumer has been a friend to Wall Street over the years, and Wall Street has loved him right back with an open faucet of campaign contributions. He is one of the most likable politicians in the state – even for those who don’t always agree with his policies.
But like the fabled sailors of Homer’s Odyssey, Schumer must now decide between which obstacle he’d rather face, the deep-pocketed bankers who’ve kept him in pinstripes or the furious finance reformers of his party.
Faced with this same choice, independent but socially-liberal NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is pragmatic if nothing else, has opted to defend NYC’s banking industry. Schumer, on the other hand, has embraced the push for reform.
Given the choice, Schumer has chosen to regulate, not praise, Wall Street. “He took our money and is now showing us the back of his hand,” said one banking industry executive who has unsuccessfully tried to get Schumer to roll back provisions empowering state attorneys general to sue financial firms.
Added one Schumer ally: “This is not an easy issue for Chuck Schumer, obviously. This is an industry he’s close with — but they blew up the world’s economy, and Chuck has reconciled himself to that reality.”
Odysseus eventually made it through the narrow straits between the two monsters, but not without losing six of his best sailors. Schumer will probably endure as well, but not without some loss of support from his Wall Street benefactors.