Pollster Celinda Lake’s New Populism Warning

Isaiah J. Poole

Here’s how to get in less than 20 minutes all that we’ve been saying about what the populist majority supports and the winning political message that will get them to the polls: Watch pollster Celinda Lake’s presentation at The New Populism Conference last week.

Her slide presentation, presented below and available on PopulistMajority.org, crisply lays out the difference between the progressive populism that represents the views of the majority of the American public and the “center-right” conventional wisdom that wrongly drives elite opinion in Washington.

“We don’t have to convince anybody. They’re there. The key is to make the will of the people be heard,” she says early in her talk. Later, when she explains that a majority of the public would support government job-creation efforts even if they would temporarily increase the deficit – a heresy in the minds of many Democrats as well as the Republican establishment – she comments, “The only people we have to argue with are the people on the Hill, not the people in real America.”

Her one warning is that there are Republican candidates and pollsters “who get this new populism.” If Democratic candidates fail to effectively align themselves with the populist mood of the public, Republicans will win by adjusting their message to fit the populist mood, even if they don’t actually change their ultimate policy focus on their 21st-century version of trickle-down economics.

“We will see a new populism on the right. That is where the power of the tea party is coming from,” she says.

In fact, literally as Lake was speaking, the right-wing American Enterprise Institute was hosting a forum on “solutions for the middle class.”

AEI’s new book, “Room to Grow: Conservative Reforms For a Limited Government and a Thriving Middle Class,” opens with a chapter on the state of the middle class that reviews the same damning evidence of its erosion as regular readers of this site have seen.

“…There is a very deep sense of unease and apprehension” among middle class people, one author in the book writes. “Ground that people once believed was stable is seen as crumbling, and many Americans seem unsure what to make of it. But one thing they do believe: Right now politics is out of touch with what they’re experiencing. We’re witnessing a collapse of trust in government, most especially the federal government, and when it comes to Republicans and Democrats, the public’s attitude is: A pox on both your parties.”

The author goes on to write, “Americans do not have a sense that conservatives offer them a better shot at success and security than liberals.”

That is, of course, where the agreement ends. The book goes on to present a perverted caricature of progressivism as the red herring with which to contrast its vision of a government that disperses its power and mutes its role in the economy to that of “enabling and sustaining markets.”

It is unlikely that a conservatism that, as the book says, is focused on “ensuring competition, aiding the development of physical infrastructure and human capital, protecting consumers and citizens, and allowing the poor and vulnerable to participate along with everyone else” will actually take root in a party in which so many of its members are bought and paid for by a small group of tax- and regulation-evading oligarchs.

Still, the reality of a populist majority that is rejecting the old conservative nostrums and is tuning out the hijacked politics of Washington is too big for the conservative establishment to ignore, and they will adjust. “Our job is to hurry history,” Lake says, and accelerate the advance of a progressive populism that translates where public already is into a movement that gains the political power to change the economy.


The Populist Majority: Americans Want An End To Business As Usual by Campaign for America's Future

Comments