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Friday, January 15, 2010

Democrats badly need to be seen as economic populists again

AP reports that Senator Dodd may be giving up on the Consumer Financial Protection Agency that Omama proposed, with the observation that Dodd no longer needs to promote "populist" legislation because he is not running for re-election. (Kevin Drum reports.) Dodd may not need to advance populist legislation, but he ought to understand that the Democratic Party needs it desperately -- at least the economic version, as opposed to Glen Beck ersatz cultural populism.

Actually, as the Democratic base correctly recognizes, the country needs it desperately, too: we have let the media Villagers use "populism" as a pejorative for far too long. The result has been stagnant wages and incomes, more poverty, the tattered safety net, and economic stagnation flowing from those failures to maintain the social contract of "The American Dream." It's not just a matter of fairness per se, but the fact the degree of fairness implicit in that historic American social contract is essential for the economic health of the country. Republican economic prescriptions have been a disaster.

If the Democrats continue to let themselves be painted as the protectors of Citibank and Goldman Sachs -- as the "bait-and-switch" party that talks about "We the People" and does little about it -- they are in deep, deep shit. If Obama's team thinks passing a watered-down healthcare bill alone will be adequate to reverse that perception as late as November 2010, they are in grievous denial.

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