Friday, May 26, 2006

Quoting Brian Schweitzer in an article on economic populism

The following Yahoo News article on economic populism and Democrats contain some quotes from Governor Brian Schweitzer:
Art Levine: Can Economic Populism Save the Democrats? Maybe...

Art Levine
May 16, 2006

Last week, some of the Democrats' most engaged proponents of pushing the Democrats leftwards -- including Governor Brian Schweitzer of Montana and author Thomas Franks -- gathered to promote economic populism at a panel discussion about David Sirota's new book, Hostile Takeover. The book is a useful compendium of the way big-money interests have corrupted our political process, leading to the screwing of the public through such legislation as our energy policy and Medicare Part D.

When I asked Sirota and the other panelists about previous Democratic presidential successes (two in the last 40 years) and the past failure of populist messages to work nationally, he contended, "Any candidate who makes it clear that he will stand against big-money interests will inspire people on [their] authenticity beyond economic issues." Will that be enough? Walter Mondale and George McGovern believed what they said on issues, too, and that didn't seem to inspire enough people to vote for them. (The American Prospect's Harold Meyerson, pointed out, rightly, that Clinton, especially, campaigned to the left of where he actually governed, thus raising his hopes that a full-fledged populist could win the presidency.)

Yet Governor Schweitzer, a straight-talking Democrat who has won in a red state, contended at the panel that it was the weakness of our candidates in articulating populist messages that doomed them. "A lot of candidates do the focus groups and pick the top five issues that test well," he noted. "They have to believe the stuff. Leaders don't lead by polling you. This is why we have to have issues presented in a way that validates character -- and explain it in a way that they're sure about me as a person." In other words, authentic candidates who strongly present their case can win election support, even if people don't agree with every position they take -- as long as they trust you as a person. That's the approach Bush used in his first election campaign, no matter how much we may have disliked his phony down-home act.

Schweitzer argued, "Our candidates haven't touched our heart -- and we haven't done that since Bill Clinton. The last two candidates for president just recited the polling. Until we find a candiate who can touch hearts, we'll lose elections, one after another."
To read the rest, go here.


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