Are Dems going to shift to populism?

Back in 2010, Alexander Zaitchik and Rick Perlstein discuss how much attention should be paid to Glenn Beck, and why Democrats seem to have ceded the field on populism.

The fact that this story even appears in the NY Times says that the winds have shifted. I have to assume that even Beltway types notice the growing popularity of figures like Elizabeth Warren and Alan Grayson and figured out why. But it really sets my teeth on edge when they keep referring to the administration and its officials as “center-left”. Show me anything left about these corporate toadies:

With Mr. Obama experiencing a difficult first year of his second term and his lame-duck status growing ever nearer, his speech underscored the stirrings of a debate inside the Democratic Party about the party’s economic approach, given the halting recovery.

If positions on foreign policy and specifically the Iraq war marked the dividing line in the Democrats’ last fierce internal debate, issues related to banks, entitlements and the rights of consumers broadly could shape the party’s next search for an identity.

Liberals, pointing to a bankrupt Detroit and new reports of diminished class mobility, believe the plight of lower-income and young Americans is so severe that the party must shift away from the center-left consensus that has shaped its fiscal politics since Bill Clinton’s 1992 election and push more aggressively to reduce income disparity.

“The sooner we get back to a good, progressive, populist message, the better off we’re going to be as Democrats,” said Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa.

The growing intraparty economic debate comes even as there is increasing cohesion on the cultural issues that once divided Democrats. Many in the party see progress on matters like gay rights, gun control and immigration, topics that Mr. Obama has spent time on this year but mentioned only glancingly in his address Wednesday at Knox College, in Galesburg, Ill.

The votes and stances on these issues among Democrats in Congress are now far more uniform than they were as late as the 1990s. And it is unthinkable that — whether their 2016 standard-bearer is Hillary Rodham Clinton or somebody else — every major contender in the next Democratic primary season will not be down-the-line progressive on cultural issues.

But there is a growing frustration among progressives who are now saying the party must move toward a more populist position on the issue that many on the left see as the great unfinished business of the Obama years: economic fairness.

Go read the rest. And don’t underestimate the significance of this story running on the front page.

5 thoughts on “Are Dems going to shift to populism?

  1. In Obama’s defense—sort of—he did have a few interesting things to say yesterday. Like all of the productivity gains made over the past 30 years have gone to the 1%. Obama ‘is’ directing his remarks at the 1%, however. The Capitalists. The outrage among the 99% is growing. 23% of those 35 and younger identify themselves as Republicans. Taken as a whole 57% of the population thinks that every Representative and Senator should be voted out of office in 2014. Congresses approval rating stands at 12%, so voting them all out is a real possibility.

  2. Yeah, just look at the progressive (not) student loan relief bill that just passed the Senate. And note how mainstream Dems criticized Liz for grandstanding because she proposed a bill that would actually have given some relief to students. And, of course, Nancy Pelosi’s vote against restricting funding for NSA’s data sweep is another indicator of how the “center-left” operates. Not to mention Barry’s recurrent resurrection of his Catfood Commission and their inspired ideas like the chained CPI.

    All credit to Grayson and Warren on domestic policy. Foreign and military policy, not so much. When I send them money I always ask, “Why do you call yourself a Democrat?”

  3. “Left of center” means something very different to a fascist right winger (Capitalist) than it does to someone actually left of center.

  4. Please remember the lessons of history.
    Populism gave us the klan, the teaparty, the know nothings and other banes of civilization.

    Progressivism gave us the Grange, Environmental awareness, 40 hr work week, full suffrage.

    Populism is like religion in that on occassion it may, possibly, be a force for good but basically is an excuse to persucute those that are different.

  5. Looking at a couple of points in the article above –

    “… issues related to banks, entitlements and the rights of consumers broadly could shape the party’s next search for an identity…”

    And let me add to that the recent House vote on whether to maintain the Patriot Act – the Patriot Act would have been rolled back but for a switch of 7 votes. In that vote you had tea baggers and the more progressive elements of the Democrats combining and narrowly losing to intense pressure from the “leaders” – Boner, Pelosi, and Oblahblah.

    I think where you stand on monitoring every doggone phone call is or should be an important issue in the 2014 elections. Seems to me any true progressive should break with the Administration in a heartbeat on this issue.

    “…The sooner we get back to a good, progressive, populist message, the better off we’re going to be as Democrats,” said Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa…”

    So, Harkin tends to view ‘progressive’ and ‘populist’ as synonymous. That is not the case. The Bank of North Dakota, established in 1918-1919, was the result of populist efforts. We would be a lot better off if other states started to develop State banks, which recognize that projects that are important to people differ from financial schemes of importance to Wall Street.

    True, populists can go off the deep end now and then, as Kenn points out. But if you were conducting REAL negotiations with ultraconservative, reactionary forces, the populists can play a very useful role as the ‘bad cop’ to the progressive ‘good cop’.

    Unless of course your goal in negotiations is to give away everything your core supporters hold dear, as Obama does now.

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