Sam Smith’s Progressive Populists
Serves me right… go on vacation, miss a bunch of fun realignment posts. Anyway, I’m still sorting though and catching up, but I do hope to have some more complete thoughts on the subject soon. For now, I did want to add some of the ideas from this Sam Smith piece on “the death of liberalism” to the mix. The piece itself is a few months old – still relevant, if not topical.
What Smith writes about Obama and the Democratic establishment is not particularly interesting; mainly a rehashing of progressive criticism of Democratic candidates throughout all of history (and it sloppily associates mainstream Democrats such as Obama with DLC Democrats like Bill Clinton.) There are, however, a couple of interesting points in here that make it worth the read:
1) the criticism of liberal condescension:
Now, not only do [liberals] not serve the greater part of America, they don’t even seem to like it all that much. They offer few policies on its behalf and they scold, ridicule, patronize and insult the very constituency that FDR and LBJ were so successful at reaching. Not too surprisingly, that constituency has gone looking elsewhere for friends.
2) Ideas for progressives.
On economic issues:
– A return to the 40 hour week established by the New Deal six decades ago…
– A limit on credit card usury, such as a return to the sub-10% levels of the 1980s.
– Court-supervised restructuring of mortgages in foreclosure cases.
– A real public works program – such as one aimed as returning our rail system to its late 19th century level – emphasizing jobs and visible improvements to the lives of communities.
– A big growth in support for small business, largely ignored by both major parties.
– A single payer healthcare system.
– Support of community and state banks, cooperatives and other alternatives to the economic institutions that almost destroyed our economy.
Another key element of a progressive populist politics would be respect for the small. Because the liberal elite has been trained to work in large institutions it has come to think size is the best way to get things done. This bias can be felt strongly in the policies of the Obama administration and in the attacks on any who support the Tenth Amendment that accuses them essentially of being new age states rights segregationists. This is not only factually wrong, it is politically stupid, because people in this country strongly rate their state and local government better than the feds.
As I said, the piece is far from perfect. For one thing, there’s nothing in his laundry list of issues (listed in the full article, NOT the list above) that suggests this is anything more than doubling down on existing progressive orthodoxy, which is fair, but hard to repackage as the foundation for a new coalition. But overall, I find the mix of populist economic policies, ceding control to local governments, and (at least) downplaying cultural issues intriguing.