During Thursday night's Democratic presidential debate, there was one particularly stirring, striking moment from a certain Vermont senator and hard-charging underdog's performance, and it's prompted a lot of attention on social media ― Bernie Sanders called Wall Street's business model "fraud," and he didn't sell the moment short.
Make no mistake, when you're watching Sanders do his thing, you're probably hoping to see him launch into some of his classic, impassioned rhetoric on economic justice. And he certainly delivered all throughout the fifth Democratic debate, coming at it from a variety of angles; he talked campaign finance, Super PACs, the public funding system for presidential campaigns, and Clinton's history of reaping cushy speaking fees from Wall Street firms like Goldman Sachs.
But the line he undoubtedly leaned into more than any of the others ― he even tiptoed up to it for emphasis, warning ahead of time that it might sound "harsh" ― was when he stated that "the business model of Wall Street is fraud." He went on to say that America's financial regulatory structure is still weak enough that the biggest banks in America could once again require a financial meltdown-induced bailout. Needless to say, it landed with some impact.
As Sanders' ever-escalating levels of support among younger voters attests, this is the sort of straight-shooting, unapologetic challenge to power and money in politics that's lighting up the Democratic base right now. It obviously opens Sanders up to accusations about his electability, though ― will that kind of strident anti-finance language play poorly with a general electorate?
That's the basic concern from a political perspective, although he's also received a fair share of criticism on Twitter from some media folks who didn't exactly agree with the rhetorical flourish.
Of course, it's one thing to analyze the truth and coherence of a debate line, and it's another thing to determine how it'll be received. In the context of Sanders' ardent criticisms of the megabanks that brought down the global economy in 2008 ― he also inveighed against the soft treatment Wall Street CEOs received, comparing it dismally to the legal calamity a young person can face for a marijuana arrest ― it's hard to imagine that Sanders' base of support is going to have too many complaints about this.