Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Fire Next Time

I am of the opinion that real change happens when a mass movement meets a forceful, competent leader.  Thus did the broad civil rights movement wed with LBJ to pass meaningful civil rights legislation.  Thus did the broad class of industrial and agricultural workers wed with FDR to pass Social Security and the Fair Labor Standards Act.

There have been two recent important academic efforts to talk about economic inequality.  There was Piketty's book that says - shocker! - that capitalism actually concentrates wealth among the very top rather than share it with the mass of workers.  Then there was the Princeton study that says - shocker! - that American politics favors the elite.

These studies help mobilize academic and intellectual elite opinion.  Although as Sarah Kliff noted in her analysis of the large sign-ups for ACA, people actually hate not having insurance.  They want insurance badly, which is something DC elites - who HAVE health insurance - don't comprehend.

So while we still have a ways to go, there is a growing consensus among intellectual elites to match the rhetoric of #occupy.

This, I think, explains the reticence of many progressives to commit to a Clinton presidency.  This explains their preference for Elizabeth Warren.

There is a growing consensus in America - as exemplified by the majority preference for raising the minimum wage - that wealth inequality is a major issue.  In the long term, only climate change is more important.

But it's clear that 2016 is the moment to make this movement a political reality.  And if so, there needs to be a charismatic, effective president to realize this moment and make it a reality.

I've often compared Obama to Woodrow Wilson, but Wilson was someone who was forced in a more populist, progressive direction by a movement below him.

Perhaps it will be Clinton who can similarly surprise the Left and be the agent of change that Wilson - a former Southern conservative, FDR - a plutocrat, and LBJ - a Texan, all became.

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