Politico has published a long memo by former Clinton strategist Doug Sosnik that sees the American people growing increasingly dissatisfied with the status quo and the powers that be:
An emerging movement in our country is calling for change to the status quo and to the leadership class. Across the political spectrum, there is an growing populist push for a retrenchment from global affairs, with a renewed focus on the problems here at home. Americans are worried about the struggles of the battered middle class, whose real incomes have not improved in more than two decades, the elimination of special deals for the wealthy and big business and the protection of the public's privacy from what they see as predatory companies and an intrusive federal government. These are the issues that will dominate our politics going forward, and we will see populists from the left and the right increasingly come together to force change.I wish it were true that these issues will "dominate our politics going forward," but, sorry, I just don't see it. As for "populists from the left and the right" joining forces to devise solutions -- well, Sosnik thinks collaboration is imminent becausr we've already had a meeting of the minds:
Senators like Elizabeth Warren and Rand Paul share the same point of view on many of the issues that have surfaced. It wouldn't be surprising to see them working together on issues in the future.Really? On what issues do Paul and Warren share a point of view? I'd like a list, Doug. I'll wait.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post has published a follow-up story on a September survey that reveals a high level of national economic anxiety:
More than six in 10 workers in a recent Washington Post-Miller Center poll worry that they will lose their jobs to the economy, surpassing concerns in more than a dozen surveys dating to the 1970s. Nearly one in three, 32 percent, say they worry "a lot" about losing their jobs, also a record high, according to the joint survey, which explores Americans' changing definition of success and their confidence in the country's future....So is Doug Sosnik right? Are we likely to see a rise of broad-based populism across party lines, particularly among the poor and lower middle class, whose economic anxiety has skyrocketed?
Americans' economic perceptions often divide along political lines; supporters of the incumbent president are usually more optimistic about the job market and the health of the economy. But that's not the case with this new anxiety. Once you control for economic and demographic factors, there is no partisan divide. There's no racial divide, either, and no gender gap. It also doesn't matter where you live....
I doubt it, because Americans still can't decide whose fault all this is, or even if it's anyone's fault but their own. Go to the numbers and you'll see that, yes, when asked about economic changes in the past few years, 66% of respondents say it's harder to get ahead financially, 64% say it's harder to afford health care, 77% say it's harder to pay for college, 74% say it's harder to find good jobs, 7% say it's harder to save for retirement.... But then there's this question:
Q: Which of these statements do you agree with more: (most people who want to get ahead can make it if they're willing to work hard) OR (hard work and determination are no guarantee of success for most people)?
So regardless of their other answers, they still can't bring themselves to embrace the notion that -- as Elizabeth Warren puts it -- the system is rigged.
And they have no consistent set of ideas about what would help them: 58% think that "government investment in roads, water systems, the energy grid and other services" is "very important" or the "most important" thing to help America be economically competitive globally, but 70% say the same about reducing the federal budget deficit; when asked what makes it hard to find good-paying jobs, 76% blame the pay gap between executives and ordinary employees, and 66% blame Wall Street financial institutions -- but 58% blame "American workers not working hard enough to get ahead."
Even if both parties develop strong populist wings, we know that those wings will be pulling in precisely opposite directions. And if, as Sosnik believes, a populist third party is coming, it's hard to see how it's going to concoct a combination of deficit slashing and inequality reduction, reining in of government and reining in of the rich, which seems to be what the public wants. The goals require contradictory solutions. And it's hard to say that voters are clamoring for populism at all, because they haven't completely abandoned the belief that they're responsible for their own struggles.
However, given the fact that right-wing faux-populism contains a lot of solutions that enrich and empower the already rich and powerful, my money's on that as the version of populism likely to dominate, if anything of the sort takes root. It would be lovely to think that the Paulites and tea party types would rally against corporate welfare and demand a breakup of the big banks, but they've had half a decade to speak up on these matters and join forces with progressives. We're still waiting.