6 Reasons Why Occupy Wall Street Protests Won't Help Democrats

Can the Occupy Wall Street movement do for the Democrats what the Tea Party has done for the Republicans? Will a spontaneous grass-roots uprising against the rich neutralize the manipulated “Astroturf” Tea Party movement’s assault on big government, assure a second term for Barack Obama and lead to the new New Deal that progressives have been waiting for?

Alas, probably not. Ever since Richard Nixon won his reelection victory in 1972 by appealing to many of the discontented populists attracted to George Wallace, the Republican Party, formerly a party of big city boardroom types and small-town Rotarians, has been based at least in its rhetoric on right-wing populism. The Tea Party movement is merely an extreme exaggeration of the mainstream GOP.

But the Democrats since George McGovern captured the party’s presidential nomination in the same fateful year of 1972 have been the opposite of a left-wing populist party. Thus while right-wing populism reinforces the existing Republican story about America, any genuine left-wing populism would challenge the basic constituencies and values of the McGovern-to-Obama Democrats. There are six reasons in particular why Democrats are unlikely to benefit as much from populism as Republicans.

Michael Lind is Policy Director of the Economic Growth Program at the New America Foundation and is the author of "The Next American Nation: The New Nationalism and the Fourth American Revolution." 


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