Luke’s Log- The Parties Go Populist


Presidential hopefuls in the Republican and Democratic Parties are starting to share at least one thing in common- their rhetoric is increasingly less and less about redistribution and fairness on the Democratic side, and less and less about competition and laissez-faire economics on the Republican side, and more and more about equality of opportunity and social mobility. The Washington Post quotes several of the candidates:

““Millions of our fellow citizens across the broad middle class feel as if the American Dream is now out of their reach; that our politics are petty and broken; that opportunities are elusive; and that the playing field is no longer fair or level,” Jeb Bush wrote. “Too many of the poor have lost hope that a path to a better life is within their grasp.””

In a major speech at the New America Foundation in May, Hillary Clinton said that Americans are “finding it harder than ever to get their footing in our changing economy. The dream of upward mobility that made this country a model for the world feels further and further out of reach.”

Read the whole thing. Luke’s Log is happy to see these developments, as the core message of the Hamiltonian tradition is one favoring equality of opportunity, upward mobility, opportunities for strivers and entrepreneurs, and a prosperous, dynamic, and gargantuan middle class. For too long the major parties have ignored the concerns of the broad majority of Americans, and it’s good to see major figures in both parties taking on the challenge.

Additionally, it is interesting to see that the Democrats and Republicans now making appeals to the populist middle class are not far-left and far-right populists like Elizabeth Warren and Rand Paul, respectively, but members of both parties’ establishments. Those establishments have been growing decadent in recent decades, basing their policies and governing strategies off of Clintonite and Reaganite legacy policies rather than truly innovative centrist proposals. In fact, Joel Kotkin goes so far as to argue that the establishment wings of the GOP and Dems have been hijacked by parallel plutocracies- a Republican Plutocracy based in the energy and manufacturing industries and Wall Street, and a Democratic Plutocracy based in the tech industry, government bureaucracy, and, surprise, Wall Street.

So a populist revival by the likes of Jeb Bush, Paul Ryan, and Marco Rubio on the one side, and Hillary Clinton and Jim Webb on the other, might work wonders in establishing a new politics of policy innovation and middle-class growth. The American plutocracy looms large, and it will take a Teddy Roosevelt-esque figure on either side to stare it down in the interests of the broad majority of Americans. The reform movement, it appears, is well underway, as the constellation of reformist magazines, think tanks, foundations, and national politicians grows every day. When, we wonder, will our TR figure arise and take his (or her) Bully Pulpit, and inaugurate a new era of American politics?

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