Don’t Be Fooled. Populism Won’t Help Democrats Win Again: Echochamber Friday

Ok, now for something completely different. With the realization we all tend to read the same news sources from the same authors in the same places with the same people frequently, we’re going to do something not-the-same to remind us to get out of ourselves.

Today, we’re intentionally going to look at some pieces we may not like and which may offend us and we may not agree with. On purpose. To see how “the other half lives” and make sure we don’t become frogs in a well. Welcome to Echochamber Friday.

This next piece appears to be a typical piece of New Democrat Clintonite. Ahh… Clintonite is like Kryptonite, except it’s not from Krypton, it’s from the planet Clinton.

Clintonite-Spinel-235093

Don’t be fooled. Populism won’t help Democrats win again

Many want to put Bill Clinton’s New Democrat principles – which I helped promote – in the scrapheap of history. Here’s why we shouldn’t do that.

Al From Guardian

Al From is founder of the Democratic Leadership Council and author of The New Democrats and the Return to Power.

America’s political map is a sea of Republican red. To change Democrats need to do better among the forgotten middle class – those hardworking Americans who play by the rules, pay their taxes, and yet feel they’re falling further behind. But how best to do that?

Conventional wisdom among many pundits and Democratic strategists is that to win over more of them, we need to offer a populist agenda – associated with senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren – that rails against the wealthy. This thinking would also relegate the growth-oriented New Democrat-Third Way agenda associated with President Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, which I played an active part in promoting, to the scrapheap of history.

I disagree. In fact, I believe the opposite is true.

The populism of the 2016 cycle was built on a message of anger against the one percent. That anger is valid, but anger alone doesn’t engender hope or help the forgotten middle-class. Nor do promises of government help. Too many in the forgotten middle-class have already lost faith in government’s ability to help them.

Rather, Democrats should rededicate ourselves to the core New Democrat principles – opportunity, responsibility, community – the first principles of the Democratic party. Our party was built on Andrew Jackson’s credo of equal opportunity for all, special privilege for none; Thomas Jefferson’s belief in individual liberty and the capacity for self-government; John F Kennedy’s ethic of civic responsibility; Harry Truman’s tough-minded internationalism; Franklin Roosevelt’s thirst for innovation and Lyndon Johnson’s quest for social justice.

This doesn’t mean a return to the 1990s. Times have changed, as has our country. The last 20 years has brought demographic, social and technological changes. A new country faces new challenges, and we must meet them with new and different policies. Our policies change, but our core values are enduring.

Our first priority must be the revival of the American dream by fostering broad-based economic growth. At its best, the Democratic party is the party of upward mobility, and growing the economy is the prerequisite for expanding opportunity.

Restoring upward mobility and reducing inequality should be central to the Democratic agenda. But a populist approach is not the way to achieve that. Senator Paul Tsongas once said to me: “The problem with the Democratic party is that we spend so much time worrying about passing out the golden eggs that we forget to worry about the health of the goose.”

Simply put, redistribution doesn’t work if there is nothing to redistribute. This economic growth can only be generated by a robust private sector, generating high-skill, high-wage jobs and programs that equip every American with the opportunities and skills that he or she needs to get ahead.

Creating opportunity should be the cornerstone of the next generation of Democratic policies, but we can’t stop there. We can’t forget that opportunity and responsibility go hand in hand. We need to complement our plans for economic growth with robust programs for reducing poverty and inequality. During the Clinton administration, that meant programs such as expanding the earned income tax credit and a “new markets” initiative to help communities that lagged behind the general prosperity. Our party needs to come up with new programs that fit today’s economic and social realities.

We also need to offer ideas that promote civic responsibility and build community. Youth service programs like Americorps strengthen our country’s social fabric and develop a new generation of leaders with a commitment to bettering our nation. Millennials are a uniquely service-oriented generation, looking for ways to make an impact; let’s give them programs that put that energy towards serving their community and their country.

The New Democrats believe that government can equip people with the tools they need to get ahead. As reactionary populism continues to tap into the frustration of many voters, anger won’t improve our nation. A constructive way forward for the Democratic party and the country is achievable if we can remember our first principles of opportunity, responsibility and community, and further them with bold ideas and modern means.

(Header image: this picture of Gronk and his girlfriend ended up in my newsfeed today. It appears to be his birthday on Instagram or something.)

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