2006, 2008, 2010: The populist wave

I disagree with Charles Cook, who casually concludes Republicans will make major gains in 2010. We won’t know until we know the state of the economy and the case the parties take to voters in 2010.

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We do know this: Both parties are increasingly in disrepute with voters because neither party is listening to what voters are telling it.

Notice the title of Sarah Palin’s new book, Going Rogue. She is running against Republicans in Washington, as much as Democrats. Think about it.

There is a clear electoral continuum from 2006 to 2008 that will define 2010. Parties and candidates ignore this at their peril. The continuum is a populist wave in favor of the “outs” and against the “ins” by surges of voters who are angry or disillusioned by the status quo and are voting for change.
2006 began with Republican rule and major scandals, and ended with a Democratic triumph. 2008 began with an unpopular Republican president and ended with a surge of Democratic voters and the movement of independents to the Democratic column, which helped elect a Democratic president running on a platform of “change you can believe in.”

The common denominator of 2006 and 2008 was not that Democrats were better than Republicans, or that liberals were better than conservatives, but that the “ins” were replaced by the “outs” by an electorate disgusted with the status quo.

The danger to Democrats for 2010 is that voters won’t have a favorable answer to Reagan’s famous question “Are you better off?” and will demand a change in the status quo identified with Democrats. If this happens, 2010 could be a 1994-magnitude shocker with huge Republican gains.

The warning for Republicans is that they appear as a Party of No, rooting for the failure of America, without coherent or appealing ideas, standing as obstructionists against changes sought by Democrats, dominated by talk-show personalities and ideologies out of touch with Middle America. If this happens, Democrats could gain a Senate seat or two and hold their own in the House.

The danger for the president is that he sees himself as the personal embodiment of greatness when in fact he was the vehicle for the populist wave for change, which could turn against Democrats if hurting voters want to change the status quo in 2010, as they did in 2006 and 2008.

I am a Bull Moose Democrat because I do believe there is an invisible government in Washington that is an iron chain of political and business status quo insiderism that dominates our government to the detriment of workers, consumers and taxpayers. This town is drowning in oceans of money and backroom deals that leave Americans out in the cold.

Teddy Roosevelt would win a landslide today because his Bull Moose Americanism challenged monopolies and trusts that abused capitalism, unfair practices that abused workers, lenders that practiced usury, money that corrupted our politics, greed that misused our taxpayers’ money, poisons that threatened our health and neglect that often shortchanges our troops.

TR rejected a partisanship that sinks our national discourse into a snake pit of demeaning, derision and disrespect toward neighbors with differing views.

I was one of the president’s earliest insider supporters in Washington, but as a Bull Moose Democrat I must dissent. Democrats have not begun to wage the real right to speak for the people, against entrenched interests, while Republicans look like a brain-dead corpse, offering one status quo in return for another.

Republicans should not underestimate the bully-pulpit power of the president, especially one as personally popular as President Barack Obama.

Democrats should not underestimate the great populist wave of 2006, 2008 and 2010 that will sweep aside the champions of a discredited status quo in a nation that demands real change.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at brentbbi@webtv.net.