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April 24, 2014 5:12 PM “Populist” Issues Are Persuasive

By Ed Kilgore

As a follow-on to my last dyspeptic post disputing the idea that “anger” is the key to good Democratic midterm, and also to a post yesterday on how well issues like the minimum wage and pay equity and Medicaid expansion are polling, even in red states—maybe it’s time to rethink some really ancient memes of Democratic politics.

From time immemorial, many Democrats who are really into “base mobilization” urged the party to go big on “populist” economic issues, while many Democrats who focused on “persuasion” strategies downplayed such issues.

We may be in a cycle where the old songs are archaic. Sure, a Democratic commitment to “economic populism” will help turn out “the base” insofar as it shows a renewed willingness by Obama and congressional Democrats to do something about the economy. But the most obvious value of the “populist” issues this year are that they are popular among swing voters. It’s true that there aren’t a whole lot of “swing voters” right now, but they do exist. And as I also noted yesterday, these issues force Republicans into positions that betray their own radicalism, which helps with both “swing” and Democratic “base” voters.

All these considerations should go into the midterm mix.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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