Populism in America?

Populism is what Barack Obama is selling. Will Americans buy it?

Having traveled considerably in third world countries and having lived in one for the last twenty years, I know a little bit about populism. When the vast majority in a country are truly have-nots, populism is an easy sell. ironically, when an economic crisis grips the world, there are two classes of people who are unaffected by it: the very, very rich and the very, very poor. For the very, very poor things can’t get worse. When an economy collapses, they don’t even notice because they were never part of the economy in the first place.

The poor in the United States are not even close to being poor by third world standards. But, that doesn’t matter. Being poor is relative. My experience tells me that for a populus movement to win there must at least be a majority of people who consider themselves have-nots. Also, the have-nots must believe that the reason they are have-nots is due to those that have. Do we have such a situation in the US today? I don’t think so. Although nearly 50% of families pay no federal income tax, I don’t believe that those who fall short of earning enough to have to income tax consider themselves as have-nots.

So, how does Obama and his radical left supporters expect to win with a populist approach?  Victor Davis Hanson says:

If Obama can cobble together disaffected young people, greens, women, minorities, and the poor — who all believe some nefarious “they” have crushed their dreams — then massive debt and deficits, high unemployment, sluggish growth, and spiraling gas prices won’t decide the election.

Greg Sargent says:

Obama’s challenge is to argue that combatting inequality and tax fairness are all about promoting opportunity and mobility — that the two are connected, and that the Republican argument is premised on a false choice between the two. He will argue that addressing those inequities is the only way to ensure that government can continue investing in the country’s economic future and in shoring up the middle class.

We know that this election like all elections will be determined by the so-called swing voters. Ari Berman takes issue with the centrist Democrat group  Third Way:

The centrist Democratic group Third Way has a new report out about “Swing Independents,” who they claim are the Soccer Moms/Reagan Democrats/Rockefeller Republicans of 2012

These Swing Independents, according to Third Way, make up 15 percent of the electorate and currently favor Barack Obama over Mitt Romney by 44 percent to 38 percent. But despite their soft pro-Obama leanings, Third Way argues that Obama’s populist message of economic fairness is turning these voters off. Swing Independents care about “opportunity,” not fairness, prioritize cutting the deficit over reducing income inequality, don’t believe the US economy is skewed to favor the wealthy and “consider themselves to be haves, not part of the have nots,” according to the report.


This week a new ABC News/Washington Post poll asked voters: “what do you think is the bigger problem in this country—unfairness in the economic system that favors the wealthy, or over-regulation of the free market that interferes with growth and prosperity?” Fifty-two percent answered “unfairness,” while only “37 percent” mentioned “over-regulation.” A December 2011 Pew poll found that 61 percent of Americans believe the US economic system “favors the wealthy,” with 36 percent saying it was “generally fair.” In a November 2011 ABC News/Washington Post poll, 61 percent of the public said the federal government should “pursue policies that try to reduce the gap between wealthy and less-well-off Americans,” with 35 percent saying it should not. So much for the canard that income inequality is an issue the public doesn’t care about.

It can’t be any more clear as to the strategy of Obama and the left. It will be divide and conquer. The man who was elected in 2008 on a platform of unity and hope and change will now run as the Marxist-populist he always was. After a century of moving America to the left a bit at a time, Obama believes America is ready for the big and final push. Will his divide and conquer strategy work? The voters will decide in November. More correctly, the independent voters will decide. I’m betting that the Third Way’s analysis of the independent voters is correct. I’m betting that Obama is wrong. If Romney and company can resist the trap of going on defense and stay on the offense with a positive plan for America, I believe the American voters will make the RIGHT choice even if it is not a great choice.

Well, that’s what I’m thinking. What are your thoughts?

23 thoughts on “Populism in America?

  1. If they can convince enought soft-heads that inequality is unfair (The system favors the rich is a self-evident tautology) Obama will win reelection.

    You are right Jim that we do not have real poverty in this country, but many are too stupid or too dishonest to acknowledge that fact.

  2. Jim, I agree with all of the 953 words of your post, …… except your last four gratuitous words (which you just couldn’t resist). So I guess we are 99.9958 % in agreement. That is good enough for me!

      1. Now you are being sensible!
        I have an item in spanish for you to enjoy at AC.

  3. It should not be all that difficult to get the facts out in a way that changes people’s attitudes. As I’ve said before, a simple question like, “Is it ‘fair’ for 5% of the people to pay 60% of the taxes?” Then you follow it up, anticipating the response, “Is it fair for people making 30% of the income to pay 60% of the taxes?”

    All you have to do is start pinning down this concept of “fairness.” It’s only effective when it’s completely nebulous. Then you can start going the other way: “Is it fair to take money that would have been used to create jobs and give it to the government?” You could easily turn it directly on Obama: “Is it fair to spend billions of tax dollars on failed green energy companies owned by big donors to the Obama campaign, while keeping oil companies from spending their own money to drill for more oil or build pipelines which would lower the price of gasoline?”

    We can make him very sorry for playing this populist “fairness” game. He relies on it not being defined (at least not by anyone but him). If we start questioning his assumptions and asking fairness questions of our own, the tables turn in a hurry. Ask kids going to college, “Is it fair, after you’ve gone to college, taken out loans, worked for your degree, and finally got a good job (or started your own business), to tax you at a higher rate to pay for the kid who rarely came to class in high school, and when he did, he shot spitballs into your hair?”

    You can even go completely positive: “We have a vision of an America where everyone has a fair shot at upward mobility; an America where government isn’t creating so many rules that it stifles entrepreneurs, or keeps companies from giving people their first foothold on the ladder to success; an America where the economy is able to grow and provide more prosperity for all because the government is not absorbing one quarter of the economy, and placing an enormous burden of debt on the citizens–especially young people–who did not ask for that burden. Fairness means equal opportunity, and increasing the size and scope of government reduces opportuntities; it locks the poor into a cycle of poverty and reduces the freedom to risk, to strive, and ultimately to succeed for everyone.”

      1. I wish I could be optimistic about Republicans being smart enough to utilize the strategy I outlined above. Who is it that calls the two parties “the evil party (Dems) and the stupid party (Repubs)”? I think I’d love the job of being a campaign strategist!

  4. There is no doubt that Obama is going to run a divide and conquer campaign and while most of the 50% of the people who pay no taxes probably don’t feel as if they are have nots they will vote to give themselves money from the public treasury. So it might not be a classic populist vote, but the result will be the same and Obama realizes this is his best chance at reelection.

  5. The guilt of the right is always apparent when they so shamelessly try to defect to the left that which they are guilty of and responsible for themselves. So obvious dude, but nice try! LOL!

    The GOP has stupidly and arrogantly divided us even further since the 2010 elections and their recent idiocy and assault on Women’s reproductive rights sealed their fate in 2012.

    They promised us jobs yet not one bill has been introduces. Only Bills to cut more and take ways rights from the Average Americans.

    This fall may be the final nail in the coffin of the GOP.

  6. Hi, COF….super post, thanks for that. I just now saw you said you couldn’t comment at my place (at AOW’s)…can you tell me what happened? I’ve never heard that before.
    Thanks a lot. Z

    1. Hi, Z. Not to worry. The problem is with me because I refuse to open a Google account. There are a few blogs like yours where I can not comment for that reason. I really did enjoy your post “War, War, War…vote Obama”

  7. Am contemplating allowing ‘Anonymous’ comments again…you’ve almost convinced me!
    Maybe I’ll do it now and see if the person I didn’t want commenting anymore will come back. Thanks, ConF.

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