Posted by Bob Lord
I love it when really smart people see things the way I do. Bob Borosage of Campaign for America's Future describes how the stars are aligning for a populist movement in his Truth-out piece, Populism Rising? If you're a progressive and you want to be uplifted, read Borosage's piece.
A few tibits:
Populist movements grow out of popular discontent. For over thirty years, inequality has been growing. Profits and productivity and CEO salaries have risen, but workers haven't shared in the growth. But hard times, as Lawrence Goodwyn, the great historian of the Populist Movement notes, do not generate democratic movements. Times have been "hard" for most people for a long time. When families lose ground, people tend to believe that they are at fault, that their luck has been bad, that they made the wrong choices. They work harder; they take on debt; they get by. Resignation and deference are normal. Movements start only when reality – and organizers – begin to open people's eyes.
Will the populist movement spread? That, of course, remains to be seen. Historically, this requires not simply bad times, discontented people and articulate leaders, but grassroots educators and organizing, teachers that challenge the conventional wisdom and give people a chance to see the world anew. In the original populist movement at the turn of the 19th century, this involved literally tens of thousands of itinerant lecturers, speaking in barnyards and town squares, educating gatherings of farmers and workers, enlisting them in an independent organization that provided real service. Today, it involves everything from Occupy's teach-ins to the space provided by the new media to the organizing initiatives driven by unions and increasingly ideological grassroots organizations.
The emphasis is mine. We all can play a role in making this happen.
And here's where we could find ourselves:
If the populist movement spreads, it won't be a Beltway phenomenon. As Occupy demonstrated, it will disrupt business as usual. It will feature fierce battles over basic issues and corruption. Democrats will have to decide how to respond. However disruptive, this is democracy's promise: That there is space for fiercely independent citizen movements to take on very powerful interests, to challenge Gilded Age inequalities and deep-pocket money politics, and make the economy work for working people once more.
Yes indeed. Democrats will have to decide how to respond.