In the wilderness, pining for Lou Dobbs?

( – promoted by Patrick)

In his latest dispatch, the estimable Steve Stark recalls some worthwhile political history. Whatever happens on November 4, the GOP will have to re-evaluate how it can appeal to the working class beyond social issues such as abortion and family values. This long-tried GOP approach has long infuriated liberal theorists such as Thomas Frank who cannot understand why workers vote against their economic interests. The GOP appeal to social conservatism is becoming a hard case to make, particularly the media elite has convinced the masses that economic conservatives — with their push toward “deregulation” —  are responsible for the policies have primarily caused the current financial turmoil. It may not be true and only half the story but that narrative is playing even in flyover country. Is there someone who can take the mantle of (mostly) angry white men? Shark contends it probably won't come from within the GOP.

…the GOP might well face two historical problems that are even more formidable. The first is that parties decisively thrown out of power usually spend the next campaign turning to their fringe, on the theory that “if we had only stuck to our principles, instead of compromising, we would have won.” Already we can see numerous Republicans mouthing that mantra. If followed to its conclusion, the result in 2012 will be the same as it was in 1936 when the Republicans nominated Alf Landon after the FDR landslide in 1932, and in 1972 when the Democrats nominated George McGovern after the GOP won the White House in 1968. They'll lose in a landslide even worse than in 2008… But beyond that, the Republicans could face an even greater challenge. In times of economic turmoil, American history teaches us that voters usually seek out a populist alternative. The greatest political threat to FDR in the early '30s came not from the Republicans but from his own party's Huey Long, with his “share the wealth” economics. Likewise, the downturns of the 1890s produced populist William Jennings Bryan, whom the Democrats actually nominated as their candidate three times (he lost each time). Outside of figure-from-the-past Pat Buchanan — who could always mount a comeback — the Republicans have no one credible to speak to working-class voters. Their efforts at populism over the past 40 years have focused almost entirely on social issues, not economic ones. Besides, Newt Gingrich's efforts notwithstanding, the GOP's fingerprints are not only all over the current economic swoon, their president, their 2008 candidate, and a large number of their members voted for the Wall Street bailout.

Clearly, Stark thinks the time is ripe again for a third-party candidacy. I'm not so sure about that given the institutional bias against independent third parties rooted in the grassroots. But he does raise an interesting question: Can Obama co-opt the populist movement similar to the way FDR did in the 1930s. There are swaths of people still angry about the Wall Street bailout. And Obama too will have to reign them in. Full text here: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2008/10/lou_dobbs_in_2012.html

About Karl Marx

Left wing libertarian conservative.