Taughannock Falls

Taughannock Falls
from: althouse.blogspot.com

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Populism for the people (and not for the Koch Brothers)

The hijacking of populist anger by the right in the United States is an amazing feat. It has distorted American politics, to the point where a handful of plutocrats can count on a significant minority of Americans to support the further erosion of restraints on predatory practices that undermine their own standard of living. How has this happened? First, a certain number of Americans are bamboozled into thinking that they are under direct threat from an army of others, different from them culturally, and scornful of their traditions. Second, the correct perception of many Americans, that the establishment cares only for a favored few, is manipulated by the right to a more generalized hatred of government, so that even government programs that benefit Americans are demonized. Thus, a valid distrust of the establishment doesn't prompt a call to end the corrupt collusion between big-money and politicians of both parties-- rather, it leads Fox nation to call Social Security a "Ponzi Scheme," and to regard Republicans as helping "get government off our backs." Anything done for the poor, minorities, gays, wounded veterans, etc. is a "giveaway to special interests." Giving tax-advantages to companies that outsource jobs is merely "letting the shareholders keep their own money."

This is all depressingly familiar. Yet the Tea Party rhetoric will never sway more than a minority of Americans. At least as many would rally to a populist leader who directed their anger towards Wall Street (the Right knows this and throws George Soros out there to stand in for all the rich that people want to hate.) What we need is someone who can tell the same truth as Bernie Sanders with more humor and folksy charm. Bill Clinton had the charm, but he saw Wall Street as a great source of contributions and not as a potential threat to our way of life. The time is ripe for bold visionaries. People want to feel represented by someone who knows and respects them. They hoped that Barack Obama would understand their needs. I think that President Obama wants to serve the people. Sadly, while he is infinitely superior to his predecessor, he is no more progressive than President Clinton. We should of course continue to pressure the administration to do the right thing. At the same time we need to stop reacting to Sarah Palin's tweets, and start boycotting Walmart. In local activism we will generate the energy required to take back our country.

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