January 03, 2008

Economic populism and just how off base the pundits are

David Sirota has a brill piece up at HuffPo regarding hor freaked out the pundits in DC are about Edwards and Huckabee...

Klein's silliness is eclipsed only by Stu Rothenberg - who reliably hands us the old adage that any candidates challenging the status quo will destroy America. Here's his take today:
"[John Edwards] is also portraying himself as fighting for the middle class and able to appeal to swing voters and even Republicans in a general election...His approach to problems is likely to frighten many voters, including most middle class Americans and virtually all Republicans...Given the North Carolina Democrat's rhetoric and agenda, an Edwards Presidency would likely rip the nation apart - even further apart than Bush has torn it."

Rothenberg's entire career is predicated on his supposed ability to analyze polling data - which is stunning in juxtaposition to his statements today. After all, polls show Edwards performing the best of any Democrat against any Republican presidential candidate. More importantly, polls also show the vast majority of the country - including Republicans - behind his populist economic positions.

For instance, Edwards has staked his candidacy on guaranteeing health care to every American and on raising the minimum wage - two positions the majority of Americans - and a huge chunk of Republicans - strong support. As I noted in a 2005 Washington Post article, a 2005 public opinion survey by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center showed that about half the GOP's core voters support the "government guaranteeing health insurance for all citizens, even if it means raising taxes" and an astounding three-quarters support an increase in the minimum wage. Pew recently updated these numbers to show that 4 in 10 Republican voters nationally "favor universal health coverage, even if it means higher taxes."

Trade? Same thing. Edwards has been demanding an end to Washington's lobbyist-written, job-killing trade agenda - a demand that the majority of Americans (and Republicans) support. The Wall Street Journal was only the most recent publication to note this fact. "By a nearly two-to-one margin, Republican voters believe free trade is bad for the U.S. economy," the Journal noted, adding that voters in both parties want our trade policies reformed.

Knowing these number, it is difficult to understand how a professional poll-watcher like Rothenberg could say that an economic populist platform "is likely to frighten many voters, including most middle class Americans and virtually all Republicans." It is even more difficult to understand when you consider that the leading Republican candidate right now is Mike Huckabee - a guy being grossly outspent but who is nonetheless surging among Republican voters on the strength of his economic populist themes. In short, all of the actual facts point to exactly the opposite of Rothenberg's conclusions: That power-challenging economic populism is exciting most voters, including most middle class Americans and many Republicans.

The reality is that people are ANGRY and that's really what has the chattering class upset. It's not that they can't read the mood of the country, it's that they refuse to see it because they have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. There's only one problem... sooner or later things have to change. If they'd changed in 2005 then we'd be talking about something entirely different. It didn't and the longer you drag on the shift back to economic rationality and a fair trade environment, the more massively dislocating the shift will become.

In other words, if you want to avoid a revolution, you want Edwards (for the D's) and, God help us, Huckabee (for the R's).

Posted by mcblogger at January 3, 2008 10:08 AM

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Thank god for this entry! Now I know what "predicated" means, thanks so much! haha

Posted by: steph46 [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 3, 2008 11:09 AM


Posted by: mcblogger [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 3, 2008 11:25 PM

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