In last week’s blog, I warned that the crazy season of primary elections was landing in Indiana. By now you have been overrun, and likely appalled, by the barrage of negative political advertisements ‒ in your mailbox, on your TV, on the radio, in the newspapers, and streaming over the Internet. The election is still nearly a week away, so the intensity is likely to pick up even more.
For the primary election in Indiana on Tuesday, May 3, there are still multiple candidates running for president of the United States. Unfortunately, though, most people that I talk to are not happy with the pool. The general sentiment is, “With more than 320 million people in the United States, is this the best we can do?”
It currently appears that Bernie Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont, is about to be mathematically eliminated. From a banker’s standpoint, that is a good thing. Sanders, who is running on the Democratic ticket for his presidential aspirations, has lasted far longer than anyone would have thought ‒ perhaps even longer than he expected. What does it say about our country that a 74-year-old, self-proclaimed Socialist is prominent in the conversation? And why is it that he appeals to first-time millennial voters?
Mr. Sanders’ campaign has been based on blaming a single industry for every problem in the world: banking. Why does he not understand that the deployment of capital to businesses, governments and consumers from the banking industry is the backbone of our economy? The Sanders advertisements that I have seen threaten to make the banking business “pay,” and he lists a litany of bad ideas that could be funded by punitive measures against those awful banks. I am baffled.
If he is appealing to millennials, and they agree with his anti-bank rhetoric, how will we win them over as customers in the next few years? I do not see any silver bullets, so there is a laundry list of things that each bank will need to do. One is to tout what banks do individually, as well as industry-wide. I have written often over the years that bankers are too modest about sharing how much they help their various markets. The banking story must be told. Another “to do” item for the industry is to reach out to young, future customers and leaders and ask them what they want from banks. Conversing is one of our strengths, but we need to focus it on young consumers to dispel the Sanders rhetoric.
I suspect that you have figured out that I will not be casting my vote for Bernie Sanders, though I still am not sure who I will vote for. It is serious business, since the president of the United States is the most powerful person on earth. While I wish there were additional choices, I will nonetheless enter the voting booth and make many decisions, one being for president. I hope you, too, will exercise your right to vote, whether on May 3 or in advance. Our country enjoys more freedoms than any nation in the world, largely because of the men and women who have fought to preserve our liberties … including the cherished right to vote.
– S. Joe DeHaven