Today, TeacherKen had a great diary highlighting and supplementing EJ Dionne's piece on the need for a populist-progressive revolt in our politics.
I want to add some insight from the ground, as a young person that self-identifies as a populist progressive, and as someone I believe represents the overarching views of a new generation of liberalism, the core group that must vote if Democrats are to have any chance of winning. I've cross-posted this from my blog.:
Going to school in Syracuse gave me an unique perspective on politics. On one side were my liberal, progressive peers, the filmmakers and artists and writers who didn’t worry about someone’s sexuality or religion or race, and, in theory at least because they all grew up comfortably, believed in helping out the poor.
Then there was the rest of the city, crumbling from within years after the Erie Canal stopped bringing business and industry moved to warmer and cheaper climes. Poverty was all around. I got involved by starting a short-lived student group that worked with the school’s labor union, to agitate for a better contract. I spent a lot of time with campus workers, filming them as they worked and listening to their stories of just trying to get by, of looking for fairness.
Borne of this experience was a more fully formed populist-progressive political view, my belief that what is economically right is socially right, because true compassion doesn’t stop where it’s easy. It’s not often that artists and creative types truly come together with the working class, but when they do, there is generally a comity that is formed thanks to mutual underdog spirit.
So I’ve been agitating for this kind of alliance for years now, though the conspiracy of starting real life and the discouraging insulated cluelessness of Washington has limited my tactics and effort. But as EJ Dionne writes, perhaps this is the moment when underdogs from all sides come together to fight the power grab in Washington that is threatening our democracy and very existence.
Now, I’m not talking as a teabagger. As Dionne points out elsewhere in this article, that is a corporate-sponsored astroturf movement whose organizers would blast back years of populist-progressive change to hasten corporate dominance in Washington. But as exciting as the ascendancy of Scott Brown is for them, this could weaken the tea party movement and open the door further for a populist-progressive alliance.
The rank and file teabaggers, I can sympathize with. They’ve been taken advantage of for so long, had their representatives vote to send their jobs overseas and 401K’s into the Hudson and the value of their homes straight into the ground, with the rest of their money going to line banker and CEO pockets. Their activism, however misguided, is borne out of frustration.
But now, they must be steaming, seeing this decision that further allows corporate dominance of our politics. Except that, guys like Dick Armey that run their movement, must be thrilled — they believe in jettisoning any government regulation and enriching the 1% as much as they can. Will there be a groundswell of anger and a full revolt between the rank and file and the leaders of the tea party movement?
If so, they can come join a populist-progressive alliance. Progressives often look from their Upper East Side apartments and want to help the less affluent below, sympathizing and wanting to understand, if not fully able to do so. I find myself, if not currently financially but at least from childhood experience, on that side.
The populists want to help themselves and their friends and families get justice and fairness, to help them achieve the American dream. In terms of ultimate goals, they are largely the same.
It can be awkward, for sure, this alliance. If we’re to truly come together, progressives will have to stop laughing at PeopleofWalmart.com and populists will have to be okay with Lady Gaga. But we’ve reached a moment in our dying democracy that necessitates a coming together of disparate sides, to fight for an overarching vision. Social and economic justice — universal healthcare, good paying jobs that stay in America, mortgages that don’t escalate at any moment and leave hardworking tenants homeless.
This was the Democrat promise, and thus far, it hasn’t worked out as such. I believe most Democrats in Washington want to do the right thing, but the corporate money hungry few, like Joe Liberman and Evan Bayh and Ben Nelson, get in the way of President Obama’s agenda, though his timidity isn’t helpful, either.
When Obama spoke about bringing America together, it made sense because we thought this was the kind of movement he was talking about — people of all different backgrounds in America, fighting for a better day. We don’t care about bipartisanship if it means a few corporate Democrats are coming together with fat, CEO-fed Republicans to stymie change.
If the current gang in DC isn’t going to understand, much less deliver, that change, we have to make it. I’d be loathe to vote for a Republican, and my natural inclination is to challenge corporate Democrats in primaries. Third parties don’t often work in America, but there must be some way to bring the jilted, wayward sometimes-right leaning populists together with the union movement and liberal progressives.
Maybe that’s fighting and agitating members of both parties to fight for certain laws and regulations that limit theirs and corporate power in Washington, to create freer elections. Without uniting under a party, it may not be a long term movement, but we could at least assure that our principles will truly be debated and instilled by the winning candidate. Maybe it’s fighting corporate Democrats, since they’re the party in power, and creating a populist-progressive force in that party. Maybe it is a third party.
I don’t know the exact direction the movement will take, but Dionne is right — there’s a potential tsunami coming, and corporate politicians may want enjoy their power while they can, before they have to start running for their political lives.