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The Rise of a New Populist Movement

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Message Stephen Crockett
The Rise of a New Populist Movement

American politics is experiencing a historic challenge by average citizens to the Corporate control of American politics. The old Left-Right division has largely been eclipsed as a realistic way of analyzing American politics. Corporatism is now being seriously challenged by a new populism.

This populism cuts across the normal political divide in surprising ways. Tax policy, public spending, legal rights, immigration, environment, civil liberties, government secrecy, healthcare, campaign financing, trade policies, public debt, minimum wage, outsourcing, media concentration, anti-monopoly policies, government contracting, worker rights, foreign policy, the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are all seriously driven by the financial and political power of the largest corporations. Small businesses, workers, consumers, small investors, taxpayers and the poor are all being negatively impacted by the Corporate Agenda on these and many other issues.

Under the Bush Republicans, large corporations have completely captured our federal government and almost all the major media outlets. The middle-class in America has seen their lifestyles undermined by the greed and power of the Corporatists. A real backlash has developed. It can be seen by numerous ballot initiatives, candidacies and growing grassroots organizations.

The Democratic Party has started to shake off the corrupting influence of corporate money as a result of a grassroots rebellion among Party activists. The Lamont Democratic Primary victory in the Connecticut Senate race is one good example of a growing populist trend in Democratic circles. The Tester Senate candidacy in Montana is another great example of the rising populist tide in Democratic politics. Howard Dean serving as Democratic National Committee Chairman was one of the first examples. Democrats are winning the battle for the soul of their Party.

The Shuler Congressional candidacy in North Carolina, the Curtis Congressional candidacy in Florida, the Seals Congressional candidacy in Illinois, the Trupiano Congressional candidacy in Michigan and hundreds of other grassroots based candidacies show the trend is truly national in scope. The amazing growth of organizations, like Move-On, Democracy for America, and the Progressive Democrats of America (especially at the local chapter level) show that grassroots populism has become institutionalized.

While grassroots Republicans and traditional conservatives have started to rebel against the corrupting influence of large corporations, their hopes of reclaiming the soul of the Republican Party are basically stillborn. Large international corporations have almost completely bought control of the Republican Party at the national and state level. Their power is starting to reach down to the county level in many areas.

Examples of the growing power and corrupting influences of large corporations at the state and county levels can be seen in races in Delaware and Maryland. In the Delaware Attorney General race, the Republican candidate Wharton, who is running against US Senator Biden's son, has been funded largely by soft money from drug companies, casino operators, tobacco companies, etc. The corrupting potential of this money on state-funded lawsuits on behalf of taxpayers, consumers, workers, etc. is obvious.

Even in a local Sheriff race (Cecil County, Maryland), corporate money has been following to the Republican candidate, Barry Janney. Large corporations receiving huge contracts from the Sheriff Department have given thousands to Janney. Janney has raised more than double the amount of funding than his Democratic challenger, Chris Sutton. The Sutton campaign has been a truly populist effort. Sutton has many more very small donors but many fewer large money donors. This race is much closer than the campaign donation figures indicate.

Populist candidates will not always win. However, huge money advantages by Corporate candidates are no longer as decisive as in past elections. The trend is with the populist candidacies instead of the Big Money campaigns. Voters want officeholders who vote for policies that benefit the vast majority instead of just the powerful elite.

Voters do not want their rights to sue large corporations over injustices limited by corporate money. Voters do not want good jobs sent outside our borders by large corporations. Americans want healthcare for all citizens to be provided by our government even if it means higher taxes. Private corporate profit should not come at the expense of the health of American citizens.

We want elections based on ideas instead of campaign money. We want community control of our media and media diversity. We want strong environmental protection. We do not want to lose our manufacturing base to a flood of cheap imports. We want open government, competitive bidding for government contracts and high ethical standards by officeholders.

We want the large corporations to start paying a larger percentage share of the tax burden instead of just individual taxpayers. We want to reduce the level of public debt and corporate raiding of public tax money. We want easier voting procedures and less opportunity for mucking with the voter rolls by politicians. We want honest vote counts.

Americans want foreign policies that serve national interests instead of corporate interests. Oil companies should not be setting government energy policy. Drug companies should not be designing prescription drug policies under Medicare for maximum private profit instead of maximum public good. Taxpayers and seniors should be getting more resources for the amount of money being spent.

As Democrats move toward a more populist viewpoint, third parties like the Populist, Reform and Green Parties may merge their political efforts with the populist Democrats. As Republicans become more disgusted with Corporate control of their Party, third parties like the Constitution, the American or Libertarian Parties may benefit. Many Republicans will simply become Democratic voters.

Republican social wedge issues are declining in importance to American voters because they ignore the real threat of Corporatism to the American way of life. Corporate corruption has turned-off many Christian voters once loyal to the Republican Party.

The 2006 Election is just the beginning of realignment along Populist-Corporatist lines. Economic necessity and hard reality is trumping spin. Politicians from all segments of American politics and all geographic regions need to start examining this change. The people are moving with or without the politicians. We can always get new political leaders.

Written by Stephen Crockett (co-host of Democratic Talk Radio ). Mail: P.O. Box 283, Earleville, Maryland 21919. Email: .

Feel free to publish without prior permission. There is no charge for publication of the full text.


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Stephen Crockett is co-host of Democratic Talk Radio and author of the Democratic Voices opinion column.
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