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Jim Webb: The Voice of Democratic Populism

webb.jpgReal Clear Politics commentary:

Sen. Jim Webb is talking about his mother's family, who lived in hardscrabble eastern Arkansas during the Great Depression and was so poor "there was nothing -- not even money." The Democrats built their party around such people, Webb is saying, while the Republicans never cared about them.


That kind of populist anger is part of the Democrats' past, and Webb argues that it's the party's future as well. But he worries that "the people at the top of the party don't comprehend the power of that message," and as a result, the Democrats may miss their best chance in a generation to reconnect with the American middle class.

I felt like standing up and cheering after I read this article. Jim Webb doesn't seem like the person who has a real good chance to become the voice of the new Democratic party, but as someone sitting here in the heart of the flyover, I can tell you that he hits home perfectly with this message.

There's too much division, too much pandering to the special interests, too much attention paid to the goofballs, whether it's Coulter or Kos. The only people who get no ink at all are people like me.

Nixon called us the Silent Majority, and though he put a lot of social baggage on that, I think voters today are more interested in pocketbook issue, issues of war and peace, they are seeking some assurance that everything they've trusted to get them from one day to the next isn't being sold out, given away or traded for another war in a place they probably couldn't find on a map.

We've saved the world long enough. Americans are ready for Washington to pay some attention to THEM.

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Comments (7)


hey, i get no ink either.

honestly, populism scares me. it's whipping up the hate of those that don't have against those that do. that can lead to a very dangerous place. if you want to argue for certain economic policies. do it. make the case based upon the merits of the policy. don't make it by saying it'll help the little guy by bringing the big guy down. where's the "fairness" in that? or is fairness only for those that aren't at the top?

but yeah, it'd be nice if both parties would get out of the places of power more and actually talk to people. to listen to politicians speak most of the time, you have to wonder what world they live on.

Paul Hamilton:

Well, you either have populism, where our representatives serve us, or we have the current system where extremist special interests and the wealthy get all the consideration while the vast majority are just there to serve THEM.

If populism will "bring the big guy down," it's only because the people are restored to their rightful place in the scheme of things. We had something like this before in the guilded age, and like today, it was marked by extreme corruption and a government which only served to magnify the advantages the wealthy already had.

Eventually the people found their voice and the reformers took over, but these things are always cyclical and now we're back at the extreme again, and very soon now, I'm sure that we'll have our own generation of reformers to set things right.

But don't worry -- the rich will still be rich. Jesus said that the poor will be with us always, and that's true, but so will the rich. I'd just like to see the balance slightly restored.


i do not think that we mean populism in the same way, paul.

per wikionary

(philosophy) A political doctrine or philosophy that proposes that the rights and powers of ordinary people are exploited by a privileged elite, and supports their struggle to overcome this

populism is not about representatives serving us. that's called a representative democracy. oh yeah, that's what we have.

check out the wikipedia article on populism as well. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Populism the methods of populism is setting one group against another.

you might also want to take a look at one of your "reformers"

let's just say i'm skeptical of the notion of blaming everything on the rich.


Dems lost the populist mojo over the last 30 years. Why? Good question. And Webb? What an Uncle Tom.

Paul Hamilton:

KE: That's a perfect example of what's wrong with Wikis. That's a very politically-slanted view of populism. The problem today isn't rich people per se. There's nothing wrong with being rich. What's wrong is that the people currently in power are skewing the system to provide disproportionate benefits to the wealthy, with Bush's tax cuts being a great example. Another would be Romney's idea that it's corporations who need additional tax breaks, not average citizens.

These guys know which side their bread is buttered on, and you could argue they are just serving their constituency, but things have been going in this direction for at least 30 years now with lower and middle incomes flat or falling which the rich get much richer. You cannot have a health economy or political system that way.

Populism, as I define it is where the focus of the government is to create the greatest good for the greatest number of its citizens. That would mean that if you are going to have tax cuts, the *first* cuts should be targeted on the middle class. Only after they have been benefited would you extend the cuts into smaller income groups.


i would just like to point out your statement..

"Populism, as I define it"

In other words you are not using it in the same way that other people do. which is fine. you have a specific meaning in mind. but you should be aware of how most people will read that word.

the problem with your definition of populism is that it is exclusionary and discriminates. the role of government is to serve all of the people. that includes the middle class, the poor, and yes, even the rich.

How are Bush's tax cuts disproportionally effecting the rich? i keep hearing that, yet when i see numbers, they consistantly show that the rich *are* paying more in taxes, both in actual dollars, as well as in percentage of income tax collected. seriously, you can't just say that they're disproportionate without some backing.

Paul Hamilton:

KE: Okay, good point. Government policies should do the MOST good for the most people, not EXCLUSIVELY benefit one group. But I believe that an economically healthy large middle class will do a much better job of "lifting all boats" than a healthy small upper class. The more discretionary income people have, the more they'll spend and invest and that benefits all of us, top to bottom. But a stagnant middle class economy strangles the whole system.

As for my definition, I'll stick with it. I don't hate the upper class (or the lower class or anybody for that matter) and I don't believe that **just** taking away from the rich will do a thing to help me. Populism is a POLITICAL philosophy and one which defines an agenda which primarily benefits the most people possible. Note when I was talking about tax cuts in the earlier note, I didn't say that ONLY the middle class should get one, I said they should get it FIRST which would set the whole economic machine into smooth motion.

The reason I say that the rich pay a disproportionately small amount of their income in taxes is because they have more tax shelters available than ordinary folks. Do you really believe that Bill Gates pays the same percentage of his income in taxes as you do?


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