As bizarre as the 2016 campaign has been so far, there's one thing different from past elections that Americans should agree is a good thing: if a candidate is associated too closely with Wall Street, they look bad. This has been a growing trend over the last few elections -- Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was chastised in 2008 for owning multiple homes and former governor Mitt Romney was deemed "unrelatable" in 2012 for being a multi-millionaire. But now we have a go-to name that symbolizes voters' distrust of Wall Street and the filthy rich: Goldman Sachs. Yes, while the race tightens between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on the left and businessman Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on the right, Clinton and Cruz have both been criticized for their ties to Goldman. This is because the hardships endured by the middle class during the first sixteen years of the 21st century have rightfully made them Wall Street leery. It's an idea that's time has come -- because of Goldman Sachs' documented involvement with the 2008 financial crisis and multiple crises before it, they are at the forefront of this animosity and their involvement with the political process is finally being scrutinized.
The thinking behind this is pretty clearcut -- a candidate who gets donations from a special interest will work for that special interest and not the American people. Sanders continues to hammer Clinton on this issue, not only for the $675,000 she received in speaking fees from Goldman Sachs (a hot $200,000 an hour) but also because the firm has been one of the top campaign donors of her political career. When Clinton can make four times as much in an hour as an average American household makes in a year, it doesn't matter how many town halls or state fairs she attends -- she simply cannot relate to the struggle of everyday Americans. Furthermore, Clinton still hasn't come up with a good response to the Goldman Sachs question yet -- so far she's invoked 9/11, said the speeches were "a good conversation" and even laughed off the idea of releasing the transcripts of her speeches, much like she first laughed off her email scandal. The fact that she can't offer any good reasoning for her Goldman Sachs ties only makes her increasingly untrustworthy in the eyes of middle class voters and the Sanders campaign knows it.
However, this same sentiment is occurring on the "usually-pro-capitalism" side as well. Cruz is being criticized for getting a loan from Goldman to fund his first senate campaign and failing to disclose it on his FEC form. His wife also actually works for the firm, putting him literally "in bed" with Wall Street. The unfortunate task for Cruz and his wife now isn't telling voters that they paid off the loan and the FEC mistake was a "filing error," but to explain to middle class Americans why he got a $500,000 loan from Goldman Sachs while promoting himself as someone who's against Wall Street and crony capitalism. The only element that makes this situation even weirder is that Cruz's main opponent in the GOP race who's criticizing him is Trump -- a billionaire! Of course, Trump has always touted his wealth and financial independence as positives because he isn't beholden to special interests and can't be bought like the rest of the GOP "puppets." Furthermore, Trump has even said that he'd go after hedge funds and Wall Street if he were president, which is another part of his anti-establishment appeal.
After all, this is an anti-establishment election. Wall Street is an enormous part of the economic status quo and more than ever, voters on both sides do not trust it's influence. Even John McCain recently admitted on the Senate floor that this is why voters were flocking to Sanders' and Trump's campaigns. As I've written about before, both Sanders and Trump are anti-establishment candidates for entirely different reasons, but their ideals have the same message -- that neither can be bought. Sanders doesn't want Wall Street's money and Trump doesn't need it, while Clinton and Cruz have already committed their Wall Street sins. Of course, be rest assured that no matter what happens in November, the kind folks at Goldman Sachs are probably aware of this growing animosity against them and their offices will be very active in the months ahead.