Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Rise of Populism: The Common Ground Shared by the Right-Wing Tea Party and the Left-Wing Occupy Movement

Sign at Tea Party rally condemening the bailouts.
On these pages, I have often urged the Marion County Republican Party to move in a more populist direction, that the keys to victory in the 21st century Marion County lie not in using the power of government to enrich the elites of Indianapolis but rather reaching out to working men and women.  Candidate Greg Ballard was leading the GOP in that direction in 2007, even saying on election night that his victory signaled the end of "country club" Republican politics.  The minute he walked off that election night stage though, Ballard embraced the Goldsmith-era GOP establishment and never looked back.

My thesis is that there is a populist movement overtaking our nation's politics, and that the route to renewed majority status in Marion County is for Republicans to embrace it, rather than cling to its establishment past.   If Ballard would have governed as a populist rather than as a card carrying elitist, Melina Kennedy would have had no chance to defeat him.

What is populism?  "Populism" is defined as a "political philosophy supporting the rights and power of the people in their struggle against the privileged elite."  Contrary to what some of my friends on the right thing, populism does not equate to leftist politics.  Rather it bridges the divide between political philosophies and political parties.

Sign at Occupy rally condemning the bailouts.
The fact that populism bridges the political divide is evident in the two most recent examples of it in this country.  The Tea Party is a right-wing movement that arose in a wave of populist angst against the corporate bailouts that marked the end of President Bush's final year in office and President Obama's first years.  The ire of the tea partiers was sparked by a federal government using billions of dollars to bail out banks and big corporations, headed by men and women, i.e the privileged elite, who had failed. The tea partiers then watched the elites use those tax dollars to continue to pay themselves seven figure salaries and hand out six figure bonuses to other failing executives.

The Occupy Wall Street movement is a left-wing movement that arose also because of populist angst for corporate welfare and the aforementioned bailouts.  It is easy to dismiss the Occupy crowd as being nothing more than spoiled kids, professing to be engaged in serious social action for the impoverished, while texting their friends using one hundred dollar I-Phones.  But those activists are right in their anger toward a government that has acted to alleviate the misdeeds of the corporate elite while not even budging the economy out of its now several years doldrums.  People on Main Street are suffering. But the people on Wall Street, the people who led the country into our current economic malaise, the bankers and the corporate elite continue to live the high life, made possible in no small part on the people's inflationary tax dollars.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney
While the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street people share a similar motivation for their political activism, stark differences lie in solutions proposed by those involved in the two populist movements.  Some of the proposals from the Occupy Wall Street crowd call for more government as the solution to bad government represented by the bungled Bush/Obama bailouts.  They hold the idealistic view that government action, if it is done the right way, can make society better. Meanwhile the Tea Partiers, at their philosophical core, believe government does not solve problems but rather makes things worse.  They don't believe the solution to bad government, again as evidenced by the bailouts, is more government as that more government will inevitably make things worse.

The power of populism in the GOP is represented by the lid on former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney's support.  Romney is the quintessential establishment Republican, a person who oozes Wall Street.  As the candidate of the elites, Romney has zero appeal to the populist, Main Street wing of the GOP which continues to grow in size and influence.  If the Republicans nominate Romney, an anti-populist, President Obama may well win a second term.

Note:  Apparently Rasmussen just released a poll saying that Republicans are even harsher critics of the Wall Street bailouts than Democrats.  77% of Republicans say that the bailouts of the banks and other financial institutions were wrong, while only 42% agree.  This supports my thesis that there is a strong populist wing of the GOP that would be ignored by a Romney nomination.  I'm going to try to publish something on this poll when I get more information.


Nicolas Martin said...

And a recent poll found that a solid majority of Republican voters feel that Republicans in congress are not sufficiently willing to compromise with Democrats. Republicans are bereft of core values, which is shows by their frantic swings to the candidate du jour. (Today it is Herman Cain.)

Both Republicans and Democrats have been Wall Street tools for generations. Democrats are more honest about their motives, though.

Wall Street, Banks, and American Foreign Policy

Cato said...

There is nothing "populist" about Herman Cain's crazy, regressive, Tea-Party 999 tax plan that will destroy the poor and middle class and give the rich a massive tax break.

The Tea Party goofs are nothing but big-corporate shills who argue against their own interest.

Cato said...

You are right, Nic. Republicans have no core values. They are propelled by a passel of hatreds and inconsistent desires, and they seek a candidate that will best express and inflict their hatred on others.

The typical Republican is a contradiction and a hypocrite.

Cato said...

"The Tea Party is a right-wing movement that arose in a wave of populist angst against the corporate bailouts that marked the end of President Bush's final year in office and President Obama's first years."


The Tea Party was the Ron Paul brigade from 2007-2008, later infiltrated and hijacked by the militarists and Fox News clowns.

M Theory said...

Both groups may be populist, but one group is lewd and trashy, while the other group is respectful and picks up their trash and would never deface property.

One group doesn't know it's goals, while the other group is well informed and knows exactly where the problems lie.

Thank goodness Alex Jones is hijacking the movement and focusing the attention on the Federal Reserve with his Occupy The Fed protests.

M Theory said...

And Occupy really isn't the 99% until they unite with their other half....The Tea Party.

Until they unite, they are the 49% or the 51%.