Jun 07, 2012 2:58 AM GMT
The Occupy folks think they are new or that things are different this time around. We even have one extremist who believes there will be a violent revolt. They're wrong.
Appeals to economic populism – pitting people against so-called “interests” – are as old as the Democratic Party; Andrew Jackson successfully used them in the presidential election of 1828.
Jacksonian Democrats never opposed capitalism, however, and most certainly did not support a stronger central government.
“It wasn't until decades after Karl Marx really got the idea going that American politics witnessed the first mainstream appeals to class warfare made by Bryan,” said Nichols.
Since Bryan remains the only major-party candidate to lose three elections, you have to wonder how well class warfare works with Americans.
This is why Newark Mayor Cory Booker and former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell both dismissed the argument as wrong.
What the Obama campaign misses is that the working class – white, middle-income, blue-collar Democrats – deeply resents the dependency class and will not respond positively to such rhetoric.
Successful populists such as Republican Teddy Roosevelt and Democrat Franklin Roosevelt did not allow their championing of “the little guy” to devolve into class warfare.
They realized that Americans tend to view the United States as a land of opportunity and do not begrudge anyone for becoming wealthy.
The line between these two attitudes is sometimes fine. Yet class warfare has never won an election, while appeals to economic populism sometimes have succeeded.