Populism for Anti-Populists

I second Ezra, who says:

If you want to know why I think the hype about Mark Warner oddly misguided, look no further than his recent comments lambasting the Kerry campaign for targeting Bush's top-bracket tax cuts as poor strategy. He takes up that favorite of chin-stroking op-ed columnists everywhere to argue that "Even though the Bush tax cuts only applied to the top 2 percent of Americans, what I think the Kerry campaign missed was that the other 98 percent of Americans still aspired to get to the point in their life."

Color me unconvinced.

…[W]hile Warner's genial rejection of class warfare may play well on the Washington Post op-ed page, there's no reason to believe it a good strategy, and lord knows it's terrible policy, particularly in an era when the federal treasury is starved for revenue and Democrats actually want to enact some social programs.
Ezra calls it anti-populism, but it’s really more like Populism Reloaded, because it’s not anti-populism so much as populism for social Darwinists. Specifically, poor and uneducated social Darwinists who are too ignorant to realize that they’re consistently voting against their own best interests, since progressive policies facilitate upward mobility, not conservative ones. The vast majority of the supposed “other 98 percent of Americans” who still aspire “to get to the point in their life where they could qualify for the tax cuts” won’t ever get there, and constructing policy around the foolishness of people* who can’t discern the difference between reality and an illusory promise that will never be fulfilled is madness. In fact, it’s precisely the kind of madness in policymaking which has served as the foundation of Bush’s entire presidency.

If that’s the best Warner’s got, color me unconvinced, too.


* And, as Ezra points out, the polling doesn’t even seem to indicate that there are as many people as Warner seems to think who are that foolish in the first place.

(Crossposted at AlterNet PEEK.)

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