Monday, December 04, 2006

Populism, Perverted

But then the populist persuasion began to undergo a near fatal mutation from which it has yet to recover. In 1964, George Wallace took to the national stage burnishing familiar credentials by blasting "eastern money interests" and "bearded bureaucrats." But he tweaked the old formula by refocusing "us versus them" to segregation’s advantage: his little guy was white. By the time Wallace left the party—taking 10 million votes with him—he had translated populism from economic to social terms, breaking Democrats’ grip on working-class whites in the process. Toiling in the civil-rights vineyard, the Left anticipated a replacement constituency even as they too redefined roles—in reverse. Those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder previously designated "the people" were now cast as "the powerful" because of the color of their skin.
-Kara Hopkins, Return of the Native

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