Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The P Word

Move over, "liberal," there's a new big bad buzzword out there. It seems the trendy card-carrying thing to be these days is a "populist," well, unless you're somebody who looks all scary like this:
Don't worry, he's not about to bite, he's just a businessman. That's Tom Donohue, President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. For some reason I thought the Chamber of Commerce had something to do with bodega-owners and bakers and ma-and-pa store-makers, but it seems once anything has "U.S." in front of it these days it has to get super-sized. The LA Times reports:

Alarmed at the increasingly populist tone of the 2008 political campaign, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is set to issue a fiery promise to spend millions of dollars to defeat candidates deemed to be anti-business.

[...]

"I'm concerned about anti-corporate and populist rhetoric from candidates for the presidency, members of Congress and the media," [Donohue] said. "It suggests to us that we have to demonstrate who it is in this society that creates jobs, wealth and benefits -- and who it is that eats them."

[...]

Under a system Donohue pioneered, corporations contribute money to the chamber, which then finances attack ads targeting individual candidates without revealing the name of the businesses involved in the ads.

In 2000, drug companies paid the chamber to run advertisements in Michigan to help elect then-Republican Sen. Spencer Abraham. Pharmaceutical companies that year gave the chamber additional millions to run issue ads attacking mostly Democratic House candidates. And large corporations paid $1 million or more to support advertising campaigns against judges deemed too friendly to plaintiffs.

So the Chamber of Commerce is corporations, not Bubba's Sandwich Shop or Arlene's Yarn Nook. For if anyone needs protection, it's Pfizer and Exxon.

I'm not ignorant to the ugly sides of "populism," a word that too often gets played fast and loose and of course can lead to nativism and Nazi Germany as easily as a world of cooperatives and trade unions. OK, even more easily, as the perfect populist state has never happened and the perfectly devilish one has.

Still, it's hard not to think that what's going by the name of populism these days--John Edwards' call for universal health care, etc.--is really a code word for arguing for, if not the poor, at least the poorer. Workers, people like that. Someone might argue to Mr. Donohue the actual laborers create wealth.

Or we could make a call for a kind of economic bi-partisanship. Maybe the corporations could think about how to create a world where the workers did well, too? Perhaps this supposed science fiction spectacle actually is more prophetic than we give it credit...

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4 Comments:

Blogger Smitty said...

"It suggests to us that we have to demonstrate who it is in this society that creates jobs, wealth and benefits -- and who it is that eats them."

Someone getting a little big for their britches? This guy is sick.

In 2000, drug companies paid the chamber to run advertisements in Michigan to help elect then-Republican Sen. Spencer Abraham.

And what happened? He lost.

7:20 AM  
Blogger George said...

Smitty, I was hoping you'd let us know about the Michigan example.

9:29 AM  
Blogger Generik said...

Over at Categorical Aperitif, nashtbrutusandshort has a tangentially-related post up today that makes for some very good reading.

4:29 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Anyone who dares to speak out against the political status quo is immediately labeled a Populist.

And his/her campaign dies at that moment.

5:07 AM  

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