The People's Choice
By: shep

by shep

I’m convinced that the only way anyone is going to beat Hillary to the Democratic nomination and lock up the general election is through a real-deal, fire-breathing appeal to populism. John Edwards has the closest thing going but, so far, he lacks a cohesive frame and focus (besides being too young and pretty for the current state of nervousness in the electorate).

The trouble is, the only true populist message is an anti-corporate one (why Lou Dobbs comes off as a racist xenophobe rather than a true populist) and no one in the rarified world of national politics would ever consider such a thing. The idea is so antithetical to corporate media, corporate lobbyists, corporate political consultants and corporate-financed politicians that they simply can’t see the utility, even the necessity, of it.

Nevertheless, on every major domestic crisis from healthcare to energy policy, it is the parochial (and, in many cases, short-term and ultimately unwise) desires of corporations and the outsized influence they have on US policy that stands directly in the path of progress. And anti-corporatism is the only way I can see for Democrats to get out in front of the immigration debate (without pandering to racists themselves), which will be the key to the ever-critical independent voter in ‘08.

Simply put, on every issue that Americans care about, there is a corporate interest that can be shown to be part of the problem. An anti-corporatism message would immediately rally the Democratic base, which is deeply suspicious of Clinton’s corporatist bona fides. And used to frame Iraq (Haliburton and Blackwater), illegal immigration (Tyson and Tropicana), healthcare (Blue Cross), Katrina (Bechtel) global warming (Exxon and Conoco), there is position to be taken on the side of the interests of middle and working class people against unsympathetic, predatory corporate entities.

It really is a big part of the Great Village Disconnect that none can utter the truth that almost everyone understands: our world is being raped and pillaged by corporate greed and the past Republican-run government (aided and abetted by corporatist Democrats) has all but held the down victims (think bankruptcy bill) while industry applied the lube (consumption on credit). But there is simply no way to really run against Republican corruption and malfeasance without pointing to the fact that they are doing the exact bidding of their corporate masters (the fact that Democrats share some of those same bosses partly explains their resistance to do so).

But it really shouldn’t be so hard. The argument can be made in the framework of reinvigorating government’s role as protector of the public interest without bashing business generally, just corporate excess and corruption of government. Corporations are good for the world; they are the engine of technical and economic progress, but they should not be writing the public policy of the United States of America. Dick Cheney’s “Energy Task Force” could be the poster child for the problem, if the people are ever allowed to see what their elected Vice President did in their name.

Public-interest vs. corporate-interest populism opens the door to every key Democratic policy approach to restore this country: healthcare reform, economic reform, energy policy, campaign finance reform, media ownership, even war policy (and it moves Democrats outside the simple Republicans vs. Democrats kabuki dance that people have long-since tuned out).

The people are angry at the fact that these problems grow, unaddressed, even as they try to change the political leadership of the country. And they have a good sense of why. I suspect that many of them, maybe without even knowing it, are just waiting for someone in the political and media establishment to simply say out loud who and what is to blame.

The fact that this cannot happen in American politics shows exactly why it needs to.

[Cross-posted at E Pluribus Unum]


Mark W Adams said...

Dude, Edwards is 55. WTF?

Kucinich is as anti-corporate as they come, and Edwards is a close second. His campaign contributions are as clean and corporate free as can be.

Really, his hair? Some mythical electibility thing?

Cohesive frame? Pay attention. Every single policy he advocates, from war to trade to labor and taxes all hit the anti-poverty, anti-corporate influence theme.

That's what I like about him. He ties it all together, everything, to what's wrong with this country -- the haves taking advantage of the have-nots.

shep said...

Like I said, Edwards has the closest thing going and isn't nuts like Kucinich. And I'm hearing him better frame the governance debate in specific policies (hit the...theme, as you put it) but still not nailing the overarching problem of corporate power and its stranglehold on public policy in general.

I wouldn't even say that Edwards isn't my favorite in the field at the moment but Hillary's giant lead and the fact that half the country would consider voting for that asshat Gulliani, tells me something about the mood of the electorate and that Edwards just doesn't look tough enough. That's a pretty stupid basis upon which to choose your candidate but then the electorate nearly picked George Bush over Al Gore and actually did pick Bush over John Kerry. Stupid is as stupid does and there's nothing "mythical" about it.