Thursday, July 22, 2004

Intel: A New Progressive Majority

Kevin Phillips explains how Kerry can win by splitting off the Buchanan-Perot-McCain populist progressive section of the GOP 'base'. Trianglulating for an ever shrinking Independent voter will only result in another very narrowly divided election, presenting the GOP with plenty of opportunities for electoral mischief.

Progressive GOP voters who voted for conservative progressives in prior cycles are skeptical of Bush and the current goals of their party. Kerry should use the same strong positions on campaign and election reform: opposition to the religious right, distaste for Washington lobbyists, opposition to upper-bracket tax biases and runaway deficits, and criticism of corporations and CEOs. Using these issues would make a strong appeal to middle-class GOP voters who are sick of Bush, as they did when used by third-party and insurgent GOP candidates in prior cycles. Best of all, these issues address issues important to the left of the Democratic party, which is wary of his centrism.

These issues have always been a part of the 'petit-bourgoisie' faction of the GOP base. Recall that is was small businessmen, professionals, and farmers who led the Progressive movement of the last century and provided much of the ideas and energy which culminated in the Roosevelt's coalition and the New Deal. The current environment of concetrated markets, corporate and electoral corruption, and the greatest disparities in income and wealth distribution since the Guilded Age of Robber Barrons, provides an environment ripe for the Progressive movement to rise again.

To win decisively and form the basis of a new majority coalition, Kerry must enter into class warfare. The GOP charge that Democrats are conducting class warfare at the drop of a hat precisely because they wish to scare a skittish Kerry away from these issues. Class warfare should be embraced and cultivated by the Kerry campaign, not run from.

Kerry is certainly aware of the progressive option, given news of his flirtation with a Kerry-McCain fusion ticket. That choice, had it been consumated, would have certainly handed Kerry the Presidency by a fat margin. Edwards' populist appeal is a good second choice, but he'll have to work much harder to break off a hunk of the GOP base with this ticket. Kerry will need to step away from default position of balancing or vassilating between a Clintonian triangulation, and the more populist message and demeanor he used to battle Dean in Iowa if he wants to do anything more than squeak into office.

If Kerry comes out of the Convention swinging hard on progressive issues with his running mate, they could pull off a 55-60% popular vote margin, breaking off a 10-15% section of the progressive GOP base (estimated at 25% of the GOP base overall), and establishing the basis for Democratic control for the next 16 year cycle.


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