26 November 2004

The problems of populism

Digby just hits the nail right on the head, pow, with a long post about the challenges of constructing a Democrat populism that will play in red America.
We cannot make a populist case to rural America as long as rural America continues to believe, as it has for centuries, that the government only takes their money and gives it to people they don't like. This belief is why people who should naturally support our programs instead vote for tax cuts.
So, Democrats are left with a difficult problem of how to deal with a region that is in economic distress but whose culture traditionally believes that government only helps people unlike themselves.

Now, we could, of course, make a fetish of pointing out the awful truth --- that most federal transfers come from the blue states to the red states. But, that doesn't really address the problem, which comes down to attitudes about the big city poor (blacks) vs the rural poor (whites.) And all that is tied up with the monumental social changes of the last fifty years, which mostly benefit them but which Rush and Sean tell them is the cause of all their problems. Every day, all day, with relentless precision.
Yes, if people were rational about these things you could sit down and have a nice discussion with spreadsheets and diagrams
But, as we've seen, people are not rational.

It's long, and well worth reading the whole thing.

I'd further emphasize the difficulty of the problem in that the VRWC has a whole noise machine built that churns out the raw material of infosphere manipulation to make sure that the the Republican populist smokescreen is secure. They have think tanks and advocacy organizations, busy turning out books and reports and bogus research and talking heads to appear on TV. This is to make it seductively easy for the mainstream news media --- increasingly short of time, attention, and resources because of their corporate masters' penny-pinching --- to play the political discourse using their terms and ideas. Plus they have whole media outlets which they outright own and control. And they have pots of money to give to politicians. And they have tightly-run, well-funded political organizations that span the local to the national. And they have their people well-trained to coordinate their talking points, stick to them, and articulate them well.

A few good populist ideas are not enough. It's going to take money, dedication, discipline, and time.

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