Why the Left is missing the rising populist movement

Summary: While journalists mindlessly cover Campaign 2016 (playing Trivia Pursuit, Gotcha, and “who’s on first”), the structure of American politics might be shifting. This series explores how and why. This post looks at the Left, so far the big loser in this transition, and what this means for the shape of the rising populist movement.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

Seeing the future
Ron Chapple/Getty Images.

 

To understand a key aspect of Campaign 2016, Compare the issues of Trump with those of the Left. The major issues of Trump, who we’re told is a crazy right-wing extremist, are (from his website)…

  • Tax Reform,
  • Immigration Reforms,
  • US-China trade reform,
  • Second Amendment Rights,
  • Veterans Administration reforms.

These are all mainstream center-right policies. What are the issues that excite the Left, that distinguish them from the center, as seen in the headlines? Here are a few of them…

These are not issues that build a majority political coalition. No wonder so many politicians in the Democratic Party have fled to the center and center-right — as Obama and Hillary have. The Left’s obsession with fringe issues has helped unbalance our politics, tilting them to the right.

The left has popular and potentially powerful issues. Fighting to preserve social security. Fighting to stop our overseas wars (except that many on the left love overseas wars; our “Responsibility To Protect“). Fighting to stop rising inequality (although the left has few specific effective policy proposals). None are very radical. All have deep roots in US history,  appear in Sanders’ platform (to varying degrees; he’s supported most of our recent wars), and are the key to a possible progressive-populist alliance that could reshape America.

Most interestingly, Trump agrees with all of these (also to varying degrees) — and is moving towards greater emphasis on populist themes. National Review, a defender of conservative orthodoxy, has worried about this since Trump began to rise in August: “Sanders and Trump: Two Populist Peas in a Pod?“, and followed this with similar whines in December and last week. This week the commentariat suddenly saw Trump’s populist appeal, producing articles by Jonathan Chait, Bernie Becker in Politico, and in the NYT.

"Change" signal

Conclusions

The very ground is moving in US politics. A few, such as Sanders and Trump, are homesteading this new political terrain. A movement to either or both candidates could redraw the coalitions that have run America for a century. The Left can watch this from the sidelines, or join. If they do not, the resurgent populist movement will have a decisively conservative character.

We can only guess how this transitional period will end. It’s too early to break out either sackcloth or champagne. It’s an opportunity for each of us to cast aside our preconceptions, try to see events clearly, and get involved to shape them so that they turn out well for America.

For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For ideas about what you can do see Reforming America: steps to new politics. See these posts about Campaign 2016 and especially these about why the left loses…

  1. Why liberals lose: weak strategy — by Chet Richards.
  2. Why the Left loses: incompetent marketing.
  3. Why the Left loses: we see their vision of a new America,
  4. Krugman shows us why the Left loses, despite its advantages.
  5. Look to the Left to see the force powering Trump.
  6. New York shows how Democrat-run cities & states contribute to the rise of Trump.

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