Mark Schmitt is a senior fellow and advisor to the president at the Roosevelt Institute, a New York-based think tank affiliated with the FDR Library. He is a former executive editor of The American Prospect.
In the quest to understand what happened to the U.S. economy since the 2008 meltdown and the recession that followed, the challenge has been figuring out how far back to pull the lens. Early books on the crisis zoomed in on airless rooms occupied by panicked CEOs and government officials during the pathetic last few months of the Bush administration and the beginning of this one. More expansively reported accounts looked at lower-level traders and fly-by-night firms, expanding the scope to recognize a decade of mortgage fraud and exploitation of would-be homeowners and investors, along with the Washington corruption that allowed the profiteers to thrive unpunished.
Former President Bill Clinton takes the stage at the 2007 Democratic Leadership Council national convention. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
In the eyes of its critics, the Democratic Leadership Council, which announced Monday that it was closing shop, represented the "corporatist" wing of the Democratic Party. Ben Smith in Politicosummarized the criticism as "a religion of compromise, lack of principle, and a willingness to sell out the poor and African-American voters at the party's base."
In his 2006 book, Whistling Past Dixie, political scientist Tom Schaller argued that the Democratic Party should learn to ignore the South. Presidential elections and congressional majorities could be won without the region, and the Mountain West was the land of political opportunity. Ignoring the South, and the reactionary politics of its white voters, would have the additional benefit of freeing the party to pursue a "non-Southern platform" of public investment and liberal social policies.
House Minority Leader John Boehner (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)
There's a malady that Washington liberals and media types are particularly susceptible to. I've got a chronic recurring case of it myself. Call it policy literalism -- the persistent belief that policy should have a rational, direct relationship to politics.
Here's a test: Does it come as a surprise to you that most voters think their taxes went up in the last two years? Obama cut taxes by $240 billion, and nearly every household got a tax cut in the 2009 economic stimulus, but a pre-election poll for Bloomberg found that 52 percent of likely voters thought middle-class taxes had gone up, and only 19 percent thought they were lower.
One reason I remain skeptical of advice that Democrats should sound more “populist” is that the audience for this advice always seems to be well-off liberals, and the people who tend to give this advice either aren’t in a position to practice it, or when they are, they flinch.