Politics: April 2008 Archives

Oh no! Populism!

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This question on Ask MeFi reminded me of this old James Fallows piece which reminded me of this obnoxious article in The Economist from February that I had meant to comment on:

As the battle for the Democratic nomination reaches a climax in Texas and Ohio, the front-runner's speeches have begun to paint a world in which laid-off parents compete with their children for minimum-wage jobs while corporate fat-cats mis-sell dodgy mortgages and ship jobs off to Mexico. The man who claims to be a “post-partisan” centrist seems to be channelling the spirit of William Jennings Bryan, the original American populist, who thunderously demanded to know “Upon which side shall the Democratic Party fight—upon the side of ‘the idle holders of idle capital’ or upon the side of ‘the struggling masses’?”

There is no denying that for some middle-class Americans, the past few years have indeed been a struggle. What is missing from Mr Obama's speeches is any hint that this is not the whole story: that globalisation brings down prices and increases consumer choice; that unemployment is low by historical standards; that American companies are still the world's most dynamic and creative; and that Americans still, on the whole, live lives of astonishing affluence.

After admitting that "for some middle-class Americans, the past few years have indeed been a struggle," the article then goes on to call this creeping populism "worrying" and to blast the Democrats for addressing those concerns. The Economist is right to note the many benefits of globalization, but as more and more families are losing their houses and jobs, it would seem an odd political strategy for candidates to remind them that globalization has increased consumer choice. Well, Mr. Machinist, it sucks that you got laid off and are losing your pension and your house, but look on the bright side, Americans live lives of astonishing affluence. Besides, there are plenty of call centers hiring!

I realize that I shouldn't expect the Economist to take any other stance than this, but even by the magazine's own standards, this is a particularly shrill.

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This page is a archive of entries in the Politics category from April 2008.

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