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Populism is ripe for picking by the Dems in 2004 (American Prospect)

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cryofan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jan-23-04 10:45 AM
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Populism is ripe for picking by the Dems in 2004 (American Prospect)
Edited on Fri Jan-23-04 10:50 AM by cryofan
EXCELLENT American Prospect article on how the Dem candidates are seeing that populism is the key to this election. Mostly on Kerry, Edwards, and Clark, but also deals with populism and the election in general.

Some excerpts:


Republicans have already begun attacking Kerry and Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) as populist poseurs. Kerry, they note, is a son of an old Boston family with a prep-school pedigree, and Edwards is a fabulously successful trial lawyer (albeit, as they neglect to note, the son of a mill worker). In the world according to the GOP, a Democratic candidate who sticks up for working- and middle-class America is a quivering mass of inauthenticity if he makes more than 50 grand a year and doesn't go bowling every Tuesday.

What really bothers Republicans, though, isn't the alleged inauthenticity of the Democrats' populism; it's the demonstrable efficacy of the Democrats' populism. It's when Democrats campaign against the country club, the late Lee Atwater famously noted, that they win. Moreover, if a high-bracket income and an upper-class upbringing turn a Democrat's progressive populism into a sham, what do we make of the greatest progressive populist of them all, Franklin Delano Roosevelt? In 1936, FDR closed his first re-election campaign by pledging, at a Madison Square Garden rally, that in his next term as president, the "forces of greed ... would meet their master." One week later, the inauthentic populist of Hyde Park was re-elected with 61 percent of the popular vote.

In fact, a Democratic doesn't have to sound like William Jennings Bryan or Harry Truman -- or even John Edwards -- to plausibly put forth populist themes. Al Gore, let us remember, was lagging in the polls until his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention in 2000. In that speech, he came out breathing fire against oil and tobacco companies and HMOs. He declared that he was a partisan for the embattled middle class. Republicans scoffed then as they are scoffing now, but the speech worked: Gore surged into the lead and held it until the first debate (and regained it on election day, for what little that was worth).

The fact is, no Democratic candidate can avoid sounding populist themes in 2004. Populism is on the agenda because George W. Bush has put plutocracy on his -- and the nation's -- agenda. The very raison d'tre of this administration is favoritism to the rich. Kerry, Edwards, retired Gen. Wesley Clark and former Gov. Howard Dean (D-Vt.) all sense that Bush is on very shaky ground here. Recent New York Times and Washington Post polls show that the public views Bush as favoring corporations over the broader public.
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