Mike Lux talks about the Villagers’ salivating at the thought of NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg considering a third-party run for the presidency. He’s surprised that the third-party push isn’t coming from the left wing, but from a certain kind of “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” centrist. He explains:
In my mind, being for the middle class is not exclusive of being for poor people – I am for helping everyone in the other 98%, as my friends at MoveOn would put it. But I am for having a party that is unapologetic about focusing on helping expand and build and promote the American middle class. I am for expanding poverty programs and raising the minimum wage and a strong public education system in poor neighborhoods and a path to citizenship for immigrants because I want them able to join the middle class. The greatest years in American history in terms of the living standards for most Americans were the three decades after the New Deal and World War II. In those years, the labor movement, the GI Bill, the financial stability caused by FDR’s financial regulation, the minimum wage, Social Security and the rest of expanded safety net, the building of the interstate highway: all of these things promoted steadily rising prosperity and the biggest, most stable and secure middle class in the history of the world.
My party, the political party I happily associated myself with and worked to promote before I could even vote, the Democrats, were the party that promoted the idea of a strong and secure middle class, and a hand up to the poor so more of them could join in that American dream. But right now, there is no party whose clear and abiding mission is to promote and support and fight for that American middle class. The Republicans do their faux populist anti-intellectual schtick to get working and middle class votes, but all of their policies are unapologetically on behalf of the wealthy and powerful. The Democrats are split down the middle between the Rubin economics acolytes who believe that the best way to build a good economy is to make sure the big banks are healthy, and those of us progressive populists who fight on behalf of the middle class and the poor- that other 98%.
The nice thing about Bloomberg running, and spending 200 million or whatever to do it, is that it would force Democrats to make a choice, and with Bloomberg taking up the pro-corporate space, open things up for a full throated campaign on the side of middle class workers and families. But whether Bloomberg runs or not, the Democrats don’t have much hope unless they choose the side of the middle class. The exit polls could not have been clearer that the voters we lost in 2010 were primarily those working and middle class voters who have been hammered by this recession, and they are going to keep voting against the party in power until they find someone who will start fighting heart and soul for a better life for them. This mushy sometimes-with-the-bankers, sometimes-with-the-middle-class thing isn’t working, and the real swing voters, as opposed to whatever it is the DC centrists are talking about, are the populist working class folks.
The high school I went to in Lincoln, NE, was 3 blocks from the biggest factory in town, and we were known as the gearhead school- the kids who loved cars and knew how to repair them, kids who went hunting with their dads on the weekend, kids who were going to work at a factory or construction job, or maybe join the armed forces, when they got out of school. They are now in their early 50s, most of them having worked hard their whole lives, with little saved up for retirement and a house that has droped in value. Their most fervent hope is to be able to keep working until they are 65 so they won’t be a burden on their kids, because their kids are struggling to find economic security as well. I want a political party that unapologetically fights for those kinds of folks, that puts their economic needs at the core of their party’s agenda, and that will prioritize what they need over what the big money lobbyists in DC want. And here’s the deal: that kind of party, the party the Democrats were in their heyday in the years after the New Deal when their mission was building the middle class, would actually win a lot of elections. Is becoming that party again, unequivocally and passionately, too much to ask the Democrats for?