Political Polarization and NCUA Chairman Hood’s White House Video

Recently the White House posted a video of NCUA Chairman Hood praising President Trump’s economic program for benefiting African-Americans.

The video link and some of the subsequent twitter comments were reported by CUToday.

Stepping Into a Politically Divided DC and Country

The decades long trend toward more political polarization in both voter’s views and in Congressional debate and actions (or inactions) is not new. This approach to politics is a key factor of President Trump’s leadership style.

So it was not surprising that democratic Senator Sherrod Brown should question Hood’s video message in a letter seeking more information about the event.

The letter raises the issue of the wisdom of the Chair of an independent regulatory agency making such an overt political statement. No banking regulators, the FDIC chair, the OCC or the Chair of the Federal Reserve have made such endorsements. In fact Fed Chairman Powell, has repeatedly stressed the Fed’s and his independence. President Trump has responded by attacking the Chair’s policy priorities.

Past Behavior and Current Context

In the book It’s Even Worse Than It Looks, the authors Mann and Ornstein provide the history of the collision of American Constitutional practice and what they call the NEW political extremism. In Chapter 2, titled “The Seeds of Dysfunction”, the authors chronicle the impact of Newt Gingrich’s role on the political culture of Congress.

The following is an example of Gingrich and his team’s use of CSpan media to communicate their view of the “fat and pork laden” House:

A group of Gingrich allies calling themselves the “Gang of Seven” seized on the (House) bank scandal to take Gingrich’s confrontational tactics to new levels. Its ring leaders were Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania; John Boehner of Ohio, then only in his second year as a member; and Jim Nussle of Iowa. Their most memorable moment came when Nussle put a brown paper bag over his head while on the house floor, proclaiming that he was ashamed to be a member of Congress. . .  Gingrich’s goal of causing voters to feel enough disgust at the entire Congress that they would throw out the majority was within reach; he attained it a little more than two years later.

Today Jim Nussle is President of CUNA. So partisan tactics can be effective, or do they generate a counterforce that defeats its practitioner’s goals?

Credit unions have tried to forge a bipartisan appeal in Washington, even as prior Chairs have been politicians or supporters from one party or the other. The issue is not one of party affiliation. Rather how does the leader of an independent agency best represent the interests of credit unions in Washington? Will becoming an overt partisan help or undermine support for the cooperative financial option in Congress and with credit unions throughout the country? Is Nussel’s past behavior and current responsibility a positive or a cautionary example for how credit unions should navigate the ever increasing turbulent political currents of our time?