Imagine this: by next spring, an intellectual consensus will have emerged that the concentration in the banking sector that developed from the 1980s until the crash of ‘08 was misguided. Voices as disparate as Former Fed Chair Paul Volcker, Bank of England Governor Mervyn King, meta- investor George Soros, and the Wall Street Journal editorial page will be in agreement on this point.

A few brave souls on the Right — recognizing that the Republican Party has been bereft of ideas in its attacks on President Obama — will then try to re-define a populist, conservative attack by asserting that the White House has been captured by Wall Street. Real populism and change, they will argue, will come from the Republican, not the Democratic, party…..

So the simple question remains: why aren’t we focusing on the problem that got us here in the first instance — the scope, range, and size of the mega-institutions whose risk taking has so far inflicted only enormous harm on our economy? If the Republicans pick up this issue before we do, the elections of 2010 could be even worse than we are now fearing.

Other Democrats say that if we shut our eyes and think happy thoughts, everything will turn out beautifully. Above all, they say, “we cannot allow ourselves to become like them. If the Republicans decide to behave despicably, we should let them hang themselves with their own rope. The American people know that populists are nothing but demagogues and charlatans.”

Who is right and who is wrong? It’s too early to be sure, and the truth is probably somewhere between the two extremes.