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Populism: A Light Against Republican Darkness

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Reprinted from Campaign For America's Future

From Republican inequality
Republican inequality
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As autumn descends on the nation's capital, people are saying there's a darkness on the edge of town. It's born of the fear, pessimism and uncertainty that have become the Republican political brand. And if the polls are right, there's every chance that its shadow will fall upon Capitol Hill and envelop both houses of Congress.
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Here Comes the Night

This onrush of conservative gloom was featured prominently this week in the New York Times, in language so shadow-haunted it could've come straight from the pen of the 1980s-era Springsteen.

"Darkness is enveloping American politics." That was the first sentence in an article entitled "Cry of GOP in Campaign: All is Dismal," which lays out the GOP strategy in all its ghoulishness.

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The signs of darkness are everywhere. Sen. Lindsey Graham (D-S.C.) says we have to stop ISIS "before we all get killed here at home." Republican pundits and politicians speculate on the possibility that Ebola will mutate and cause millions of deaths. "Evil forces around the world want to harm Americans every day," says an ad meant to make voters frightened of illegal immigration.

Day in and day out, the Republican drumbeat of horror and fear continues. The new Republican campaign mantra seems to be "It's midnight again in America."

In campaign ads, on Fox "News," and in speeches around the country, Republicans are laying out visions of America that sound more like scary campfire stories. Your next cough could be a sign of your imminent, eye-bleeding doom. Scimitar-wielding Islamists in black hoods are just a few blocks away from the local 7-11, where they'll murder a few shoppers, veil the women, and forbid us from buying Lotto tickets or cigarettes. And a blundering Secret Service will soon bring on a catastrophic fate for the president.

That last one is a particularly puzzling concern, given the GOP's penchant for hinting that Obama isn't a legitimate president in the first place. But there is the hint of an outline behind the remaining menu of dangers we're being offered this year: A Muslim threat. A cross-border threat. An African threat. Each represents something the Right has tried to associate with Democrats in general and this (supposedly Kenyan, Muslim, foreign-born) president in particular.

In a year when "protest votes" against the incumbent president can be decisive, what better way to stir up their own base than to tell them that they're taking over? Sure, it's a racist strategy, but that doesn't mean it's not working.

Thomas Carlyle called economics "the dismal science." But then, he never met a GOP campaign consultant.

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The Only Thing We Have to Fear

The question is, What are Democrats doing about it? If the Republicans excel at sowing fear, the Democrats have often shown a gift for optimism. "Yes We Can." The "audacity of hope." Before that it was the "Great Society" and the "New Frontier," visions of a nation which can overcome any obstacle and reach any goal.

FDR, the prototype of the ideal Democrat, coined a phrase that would provide the perfect counter to the GOP's shadow-haunted campaign: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

Where are those Democrats in this year's campaign?

The Republicans have unified around their Stygian themes of despair and terror. But Democrats seem divided, scattered, fending for themselves. Worried by the President's low job approval and lacking a unifying theme of their own, many candidates are emphasizing local issues and their own personal qualities instead.

The Art of Warren

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Host of 'The Breakdown,' Writer, and Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

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