Populism: Democrats Ignore at Our Peril

As we approach 2010, populism appears to be the exclusive province of
the passionate right wingers. But it remains an opportunity for Democrats in
the coming election.

Democratic Party insiders consider me somewhat of a boat rocker
(untitled is unmuzzled). I've always been a populist, a Jeffersonian. This
may upset a few, but now more than ever, Democrats need to renew our call
for decentralization of power and democratization of the economy.

Which is what the tea partyists clamor for. Those Democrats who ignore
the populist revolt do so at their own peril. When Democrats are strong on
these pocketbook issues, we do well. But if we yield the populist ground to
the Republican Party, the results of 2010 will not be in our favor.

The middle class feels abandoned by both parties, the American Dream is
more out of reach than ever. When it comes to outrage at the bipartisan
march toward centralization of power and wealth, it's in our nature for
Democrats to lead the charge.

In the Wall Street bailout, who among us didn't share the feeling that:
Hey, the big money is getting a bailout, what about me? What is this Too Big
To Fail nonsense? Some Republicans have tried to co-opt the mood on Main
Street, but where have Democrats been?

If we are portrayed as the party of a central government owned and
controlled by big money, we lose and we deserve to.

For much of our history, Democrats have been recognized as the party of
working people. But with the Clintonians and the DLC there was a shift. The
race for money took over. Many leading Democrats became eager lapdogs to the
big-bucks campaign funders. The finance and insurance industry took charge
of government. We now need to reverse that order.

As an Obama enthusiast, it saddens me that President Obama1s economic
policy appears to be back in the hands of those responsible for the economic
meltdown. It looks as if the banks are reining in politicians when it should
be the other way around.

Administrations may have changed, but who's in charge has not. As
taxpayers underwrite the grievous mistakes made on Wall Street, as a recent
bonus gift to those money titans, any future bailouts will be unfettered by
burdensome congressional oversight, institutionalizing taking from the many
and giving to the few.

Franklin Roosevelt, a great Democrat, said, "Government by organized
money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob." At a rally a
week before the election of 1936 when FDR bellowed "I should like to have it
said of my first administration that in it the forces of selfishness and of
lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said of my second
administration that in it those forces met their master." It was met with
wild cheering.

Roosevelt also pointed out that "No man can tame a tiger into a kitten
by stroking it."

FDR won with nearly 61%. Of course, in 1937 those he sought to rein in
got their vengeance. It appears that in 2010, that won1t be necessary. Wall
Street called the shots under Bush and Clinton, and now Obama1s economic
table is owned by the same Wall St. Rubinites.

Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) is one who gets it. He says, "the people at the
top of the party don't comprehend the power of that [populist] message," and
worries that the party may miss the best chance in a generation to connect
with the middle class. "Congress must bring fairness back to economic life."
May I say, amen!

Here in New Hampshire, Mark Connolly, Director of Securities Regulation
also gets it: "The interests of Main Street investors need to be placed at
the head of the line--this means greater disclosure, increased shareholder
rights, and an end to financial products that benefit Wall Street but are
not suitable for average investors."

The anger on the streets is because we've had quite enough of government
of, by, and for the very richest. Populism can be taken over by dangerous
demagogues like Father Coughlin, George Wallace, and lately Glenn Beck. It
is crucial that Democrats take back populism and directly address the issue
of economic fairness and put forth an agenda that serves the middle class as
it tilts away from the too-big-to-fail corporate finance and insurance
interests and the elite richest one percent.

We must take on the concentration of wealth and power, and give decision
making and governance back to we, the people.

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