Thursday, February 18, 2010


George Will on why Sarah Palin (in his words) "is not going to be president and will not be the Republican nominee unless the party wants to lose at least 44 states":

[The] reaction [against the Obama administration] is populism, a celebration of intellectual ordinariness. This is not a stance that will strengthen the Republican Party, which recently has become ruinously weak among highly educated whites. Besides, full-throated populism has not won a national election in 178 years, since Andrew Jackson was reelected in 1832.

... Populism has had as many incarnations as it has had provocations, but its constant ingredient has been resentment, and hence whininess. Populism ... always wanes because it never seems serious as a solution.

Jonathan Chait on why Harold Ford won't win his Senate race in New York:

Ford's candidacy is an epiphenomenon of Wall Street's retreat into a fantasy world. In this alternate reality, the titans of finance are innocent victims of a freakish accident, the Democrats' struggles result from their hostility to these victims, and the people are clamoring for a leader who will openly cater to their demands. The notion that Democratic primary voters in New York will embrace Ford may be more fantastical than the wildest investment scheme that predated the crash.

Well, yeah -- but there's an overlap between these two sentiments right now. And I'm not sure what that says about the electability of Palin and Ford (or of candidates expressing similar sentiments).

Remember what really got the tea party movement going: the trading-floor rant on CNBC by Rick Santelli. Remember that Glenn Beck denounced attempts to claw back the AIG bonuses. Remember that teabaggers and Fox think the recession is exclusively the fault of ACORN, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Community Reinvestment Act. Today's populists aren't old-school populists -- they like those shiny Gucci shoes. They agree with the Wall Streeters who are backing Ford's campaign.

Ford probably can't win a Democratic primary in New York, but I wonder if he can win a general election on a third-party line, using pro-plutocrat talk to appeal to Republicans, right and right-centrist independents, and the tea party crowd. And Palin may seem like too much of a know-nothing to win over educated suburban swing voters in the 2012 general election, but she'll be pushing a plutocrat-friendly populism, and I fear a Palinesque candidate who doesn't seem like quite as much a dolt as Palin (Pawlenty?) might succeed with a similar message.

Though, really, what would be new about that? Isn't pro-plutocrat populism just Reaganism with a fresh coat of paint?

The real irony here is that a subtext of Glenn Beck's paranoid worldview is that Obama represents both the evil underclass and an evil sliver of the overclass -- ACORN plus George Soros. Yet it's actually the right at this moment that genuinely embraces a philosophy according to which Wall Street is in sync with the underclass -- the difference being that it's the white rural underclass. Could a winning coalition be forged out of that? I wish I were sure it couldn't.

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