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“To Regulate Or Break Up?”: The Difference Between An Insurrectionist And An Institutionalist

Anyone who has been able to sit through both the Republican and Democratic presidential debates is very well-versed in the chasm that currently exists between the two parties. When all is said and done, the public is going to have a very clear choice between two starkly different directions for our country to embrace in November 2016. That is a good thing – especially for Democrats who seemed intent on watering down the differences in the 2014 midterms.

But Tuesday’s debate also clarified the differences between Clinton and Sanders. Matt Yglesias does a good job of teeing that up.

To Clinton, policy problems require policy solutions, and the more nuanced and narrowly tailored the solution, the better. To Sanders, policy problems stem from a fundamental imbalance of political power..The solution isn’t to pass a smart new law, it’s to spark a “political revolution” that upends the balance of power.

As we know from both the debate and their position statements, Clinton wants to regulate the big financial institutions and Sanders wants to break them up. The argument from the Sanders wing is that we can’t trust the government to be the regulator.

I remember that same argument coming up between liberals during the health care debate. Those who dismissed the ACA in favor of single payer often said that any attempt to regulate health insurance companies was a waste of time. I always found that odd based on the Democratic tradition of embracing government regulation as the means to correct the excesses of capitalism.

This basically comes down to whether you agree with Sanders when he says that we need a “political revolution that upends the balance of power” or do you agree with Clinton when she said, “it’s our job to rein in the excesses of capitalism so that it doesn’t run amok.” Peter Beinart calls it the difference between an insurrectionist and an institutionalist.

Depending on where you stand on that question, your solutions will look very different. That helps me understand why I never thought Sanders’ policy proposals were serious. Someone who assumes that the entire system is rigged isn’t going to be that interested in “nuanced and narrowly tailored policies” to fix it.

But in the end, this puts even more of a responsibility on Sanders’ shoulders. If he wants a political revolution to upend a rigged system, he needs to be very precise about what he has in mind as a replacement to that system. Otherwise, he’s simply proposing chaos.


By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 15, 2015

October 16, 2015 - Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Financial Institutions, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , ,


  1. When Nancy says “If he wants a political revolution to upend a rigged system, he needs to be very precise about what he has in mind as a replacement to that system. Otherwise, he’s simply proposing chaos.”, It sends a message to me that she believes Hillary Clinton can “regulate” the system with a “wave of her wand”! Makes no sense!


    Comment by lrfalstad | October 16, 2015 | Reply

    • Which she will never be able to do. Posted an interesting by Paul Krugman for tomorrow.


      Comment by raemd95 | October 17, 2015 | Reply

      • Look forward to reading it.


        Comment by lrfalstad | October 17, 2015

  2. For banks, the slippery slope started with the repeal of Glass-Steagal. For others, we could start by increasing the minimum wage to at least a living wage and index it and invest in our infrastructure which would also create jobs and community colleges for retraining. These are not revolutionary ideas, but workable ones that will also drive the economy and revenue.


    Comment by Keith | October 16, 2015 | Reply

  3. Sorry, but someone who assumes that the system isn’t rigged is probably even less qualified to govern than Sanders.
    As for “breaking” vs. “regulating” – regulators will always be at least one step behind those they regulate, and if one of those Too Big To Fail banks actually goes under, that will have a potential to re-create 2008 crisis once again. That isn’t the case with Mom & Dad Credit Union or a mid-size bank which do not pose a systemic risk and can be regulated as usual.


    Comment by List of X | October 16, 2015 | Reply

    • My personal belief is that the Big Banks should be broken up. I think the same should happen in the health insurance industry.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by raemd95 | October 16, 2015 | Reply

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