National Journal blind squirrel Ron Fournier may have stumbled over an acorn today while seeking explanations for Eric Cantor’s tsunami-earthquake-sharknado primary loss:
But what may be in the air is a peaceful populist revolt—a bottom-up, tech-fueled assault on 20th-century political institutions…In Washington, Cantor’s defeat is being chalked up to the tea party’s intolerance toward immigration reform…. While he paid a price for flirting with a White House compromise, Cantor’s greater sin was inauthenticity—brazenly flip-flopping on the issue. Typical politician. Worse, voters sensed that Cantor was more interested in becoming House speaker than in representing their interests. He spent more money at steakhouses than rival David Brat spent on his entire campaign. Typical politician.
Fournier goes on to crib ideas from a 2013 memo from a former Clinton White House political flak, Doug Sosnik, who cites “an increasing populist push” from left to right. Fournier writes:
Which side of the barricade are you on? Populists from the right and the left—from the tea party and libertarian-leaning Rand Paul to economic populist Elizabeth Warren—are positioning themselves among the insurgents. Sosnik pointed to six areas of consensus that eventually may unite the divergent populist forces:
— A pullback from the rest of the world, with more of an inward focus.
— A desire to go after big banks and other large financial institutions.
— Elimination of corporate welfare.
— Reducing special deals for the rich.
— Pushing back on the violation of the public’s privacy by the government and big business.
— Reducing the size of government.
Much of this strikes me as “No Labels” pablum. Does anyone seriously believe Rand Paul wants to eliminate corporate welfare and quit rigging the game for the rich? Does anyone think Elizabeth Warren wants to slash the size of an already decimated public sector? Hogwash.
But a much smarter person than Ron Fournier detects a whiff of populism in the electorate too: Here’s Balloon Juice colleague Kay from one of the Cantor grave-dancing threads the other day:
Voters said Cantor was “out of touch” and that’s a problem for both Republicans and Democrats, IMO. I hear “out of touch” more often than I hear any specific complaint. There’s a real populist shift on both sides, I think.
The Tea Party’s will be horrible and xenophobic but the Democrats need to address it, develop a liberal version, or conservatives will run away with the whole concept. I think it’s real.
I think she’s right. As the only one of the two viable political parties in this country that is not a wholly owned subsidiary of the 1%, Democrats should benefit from a populist groundswell, but only if they recognize and channel it.
From President Obama down, many have addressed the income inequality issue and the basic unfairness of how the game is rigged right now, thanks to GOP policies. That’s a message every damn one of them needs to be shouting from the rooftops for the next two years.