Taughannock Falls

Taughannock Falls
from: althouse.blogspot.com

Sunday, September 5, 2010


I came across this interesting commentary from Sally Kohn:

The essence of populism is, as Mattson writes, “the people, yes” — the idea that ordinary Americans have as much (or even more) to contribute to our political, economic and social evolution as do technocratic elites. Frankly, as someone who has seen first hand the deep condescension of many Washington-based progressive advocacy organizations toward “the field”, I think a movement-wide emphasis on populism is a welcome counterweight. The “don’t worry, we’re the experts in DC, we’ll handle the big questions” attitude toward the progressive movement outside Washington is as frustrating to grassroots liberal activists as the same sentiment coming from politicians in Washington irritates voters. Moreover, while conservatives certainly don’t want to help anyone — especially not poor people of color — the pity-filled do-gooder Sally Struthers-eque “thank goodness you have us to help you” attitude exuded by many white liberal activists (most often implied but often explicit) is downright offensive. Why is there no mass grassroots progressive movement rising up on the left like the Tea Party? Our not-so-hidden bias against average people is a big part of the answer. It’s in our attitudes, but it’s also reflected in the way we structure the progressive “movement” such as it is — focusing on Washington, DC think tanks and lobbying arms and spending barely little money and attention on real grassroots organizing.

There's another big problem beyond the liberal failure to work hard enough, and empathetically enough, with the grassroots. The right, which openly promotes the interests of the wealthiest and most powerful, have succeeded in portraying articulate liberals as "elitist." The only way to combat this is to relentlessly point out how the greatest beneficiaries of Republican action are in fact billionaires. Liberal leaders need to lose their shyness about attacking the greed and selfishness of outsourcing, downsizing CEOs and their bought and paid for Republican lapdogs. Even thoughtful people like Robert Reich and Paul Krugman seem overly polite to the big plutocrats they point out hog most of our wealth. While the fact that a CEO earns 500 times the wage of an average worker at the same company does piss people off, a more personal anecdote can be even more powerful. Pet psychiatrists, Lear jets, enormous yachts, obscene excess at every turn! And you're worried these people might have to go back to paying the same, fairly low, taxes they paid under Clinton? Populism doesn't have to be demagoguery. We don't need to provoke fear and hatred, we just need to calmly remind folks of where their interest truly lies.

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