The Value of Political Populism
(Guest Post by Big Tent Democrat)
A few weeks ago in my post What Obama Needs To Learn, I wrote:
[T]hat is FDR's lesson for Obama. Politics is not a battle for the middle. It is a battle for defining the terms of the political debate. It is a battle to be able to say what is the middle. . . . FDR governed as a liberal but politicked like a populist. When LBJ rightly and to his everlasting credit removed one of the Dem pillars of paranoia - racism, the GOP co-opted populist racism, added the Jeffersonian notion of government and institutional hatred, throw in a dash of paranoid Red scare, now terrorism scare, and you get political victories. The lesson of Hofstadter is to embrace liberal governance and understand populist politics. It may sound cynical, but you must get through the door to govern. Lincoln knew this. FDR knew this. Hofstadter knew this. I hope Obama can learn this.
A debate about populism has been ongoing among some very smart folks. Brad DeLong has been in the middle of it, in particular in debate with Paul Krugman:
I am, as I said above, a reality-based center-left technocrat. I am pragmatically interested in government policies that work: that are good for America and for the world. My natural home is in the bipartisan center, arguing with center-right reality-based technocrats about whether it is center-left or center-right policies that have the best odds of moving us toward goals that we all share--world peace, world prosperity, equality of opportunity, safety nets, long and happy lifespans, rapid scientific and technological progress, and personal safety. The aim of governance, I think, is to achieve a rough consensus among the reality-based technocrats and then to frame the issues in a way that attracts the ideologues on one (or, ideally, both) wings in order to create an effective governing coalition.
I am a Big Tent Centrist Dem so that sounds good to me as a matter of policy. But what about the politics? I think populism is critical to Democratic politics. I'll discuss Delong's views and other matters related to populism, as policy and politics, on the other side.
|< A Baloney Hillary Article | Jailing Journalists in the Bay Area >|