I just tumbled onto this Robert Reich article:The Six Principles of the New Populism (and the Establishment's Nightmare)
Being a long time Reich fan, I put on my choir robes and prepared to be preached to by Mr. Reich.
A very few minutes later, I had an uncomfortable feeling that my choir was being invaded by some new and unexpected voices and some of them were muscling for solos.
Please read the rather short article and join me for discussion below.
Ok, what the title of the Reich article did not make clear was that some of the more prominent voices of the "New Populism" are REPUBLICANS!
Listen, as far as I am concerned, populism is shorthand for Vox Populi or "voice of the people". Usually when things are going well in our Republic, nobody particularly cares about the vox populi, even the populi itself, because we peons are too busy working and earning and studying and buying and consuming to be exercising our vocal cords with complaints about the status quo.
But when those activities slow down or in some cases cease all together, the populi have too much time on their hands and too little money to spend for the demands of everyday life and then a faint hum can be heard in the land. If the situation doesn't improve, the hum increases to a steady loud drone and then one day erupts into a loud earsplitting buzz and cacophony of anger directed at The Powers That Be who will be blamed (rightfully) for the dearth of jobs and the lackluster economies in our little burgs and townlets and metropolis.
Previously when the drone has been evident, it has been harnessed to good effect by the Party that has been the traditional champion of labor and the poor, working and middle classes - the Democrats.
Democrats might want to take notice that while the drone is now escalating to buzzdom and while they aren't acknowledging it so far in any particularly effective fashion, there are those on the right who have their eyes on usurping the Democrats role as the champion of the people.
Reich's Six Principles of populism are ones we have bandied about for quite a long time:
Reducing the size of TBTF Banks
Reviving Glass Steagall
Ending Corporate Welfare
Reining in a Surveillance State
Scaling back international interventionism
Opposing secretive scary corporatist trade agreements
Who does Reich cite as trumpeting these various causes? Mostly a roster of Republicans and Tea Partyers, including Ted Cruz, David Vitter, Justin Amash, John McCain, Rand Paul, David Camp, and Judson Philips. Naturally, lefty icons Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders get a shout-out but they are the only Dems (I know I know about Bernie) mentioned as being actively involved in these particular issues.
I don't doubt that other Democrats are actively engaged in these and other Populist issues, but quite honestly they don't spring quickly to mind, with the exception of Al Fanken's work on Net Neutrality. I can't say that the President has shown any particular leadership on these issues except to be a champion for the status quo. He has been pretty good at not being rushed in escalating conflicts - I do give him points on that, but the other items, not so much.
Now, here is the central statement in Reich's article:
Even so, the major fault line in American politics seems to be shifting, from Democrat versus Republican, to populist versus establishment -- those who think the game is rigged versus those who do the rigging.Think about that for a few moments and then try on this next sentence as a digestif:
Wall Street and big business Republicans are already signaling they'd prefer a Democratic establishment candidate over a Republican populist.According to Reich , if the Republicans and corporations don't get Jeb Bush or Chris Christie, they will default to our own pre-selected-by-popular-acclaim-why-are-we-even-bothering-with-primaries candidate, Hillary Clinton.
So, how about that for turning the political world on its head and upside down? If a Tea Party Populist won the Republican nomination, Hillary would be swept in by a two party tidal wave and would be the first actual bi-partisan, beloved by the corporatists of both sides President. Being the first female President would just be the cherry on top. Right? Right? Hello?
Of course, the triumph of a Republican Tea Party populist in the primaries and a Hillary romp in the general leaves no candidate for the poor little vox populi Democrat, Independent, New Populist to vote for even though in my opinion the 6 items identified by Reich would have resonance for them.
I personally doubt that a Republican Tea Party Populist would garner many if any Dem votes due to the horrible social issues stances, but I would have to add, one never knows.
Here are the questions I am left with after reading his essay:
What does the coalescing around Hillary Clinton portend for the futures of bot the Republican and Democratic parties? Will the Third Way/Republican/Corporate mind meld be complete and will the No Labels Can't We All Just Get Along Party be a reality?
Is it completely implausible that a Tea Party Man of The People could sneak into the White House on a wave of Populist enthusiasm that was unheard and unresponded to by the Democrats?
How do you see this playing out?