The always-insightful Mark Schmitt has a piece up on the American Prospect site that discusses Barack Obama’s unusual form of “populism without pitchforks,” which adopts a strong empathy for middle-class Americans, but not in the exclusionary, vilify-the-villains manner of traditional left- and right-wing populism.
This “communitarian populism,” says Schmitt, is politically superior to the old Bob Shrum-branded “fighting for you” style in that (a) it’s more authentic; (b) it’s more inclusive from a voter-bloc point of view; and (c) it’s better connected with mainstream values. I’d personally add that it’s also more amenable to the demands of governing as well as politicking, but the former does tend to flow from the latter.
Here’s Schmitt’s coda:
[T]he late 19th Century populists were naïve in certain ways: failing to anticipate the barriers to bringing farmers, urban workers and rural African-Americans together in a single movement; or the counter-tactics that would derail their effort “to bring the corporate state under popular control. And Obama’s soft, communitarian populism may similarly understate the structural divisions in society or the disruptive power of predatory capitalism. But these are different times, Obama’s movement has different origins, the corporate state lies in ruins, and we really are all in it together.