The left and economic populism

Mother Jones sums it up well after a lengthy piece parsing the reasons for the collapse of unions and the Democratic Party as progressive forces in the US.

Over the past 40 years, the American left has built an enormous institutional infrastructure dedicated to mobilizing money, votes, and public opinion on social issues, and this has paid off with huge strides in civil rights, feminism, gay rights, environmental policy, and more. But the past two years have demonstrated that that isn’t enough. If the left ever wants to regain the vigor that powered earlier eras of liberal reform, it needs to rebuild the infrastructure of economic populism that we’ve ignored for too long. Figuring out how to do that is the central task of the new decade.

Yes! What’s sweeping the Middle East now is populism. The original Tea Party was completely populist and formed in outrage against the bailouts of the big banks by the government (it later got co-opted, at least in part.) People are furious at what the banks are getting away with while the government aids and abets the process. The left needs to embrace that anger and make it its own.

And yes, spending needs to be cut. Most public pension funds are in serious trouble. This needs to be dealt with. The left must make economic issues its own rather than continuing to cede them to the right through inaction and cluelessness then frantically trying to play catch-up.


  1. Have you read Chris Hedges’ newest book, “The Death of the Liberal Class”? A lot of it is about a similar theme, but Hedges doesn’t write with the same delusions about the Democratic Party that Kevin Drum writes with.

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