Much has been made of the rise of economic populism among the Democrats. To my mind, this is a trend to be very nervous about. In fact, the way I see it, the left-wing populists and right-wing social conservatives are birds of a feather. Brink Lindsay's recent comment -"Here, in the first decade of the twenty-first century, the rival ideologies of left and right are both pining for the '50s. The only difference is that liberals want to work there, while conservatives want to go home there"- nails it.
Both play off the fears and anxieties of those who are being left behind by the current economic transformation. The social conservatives have used everything from family values to gay and immigrant bashing to mobilize so-called "Reagan Democrats. Their left-wing counterparts do the same with a Lou Dobbs-style populism bordering on economic nationalism. To dial into the emerging populist zeitigest, check out David Sirota's glowing review of Lou Dobb's book and his post today about how populist Democrat freshman came out guns blazing after Robert Rubin.
Both are at odds with the Creative Economy. The social conservatives would kill it by stamping out diversity and openness, economic populists by erecting barriers to globalization and immigration. Instead, we need to take an historical cue from FDR who extended the Industrial Economy to rank and file industrial workers. Today, we need to extend the Creative Economy in analogous fashion, ensuring that industrial workers and especially the swelling ranks of service sector workers can participate in and benefit from the Creative Economy.
A year or so I wrote this essay with Jerry Mayer, the talented young political historian who is my George Mason colleague, charting three scenarios where our politics might be headed.