Thursday, January 15, 2015

Remember William Jennings Bryan...

...from your high school history classes? According to Wikipedia, "The Great Commoner":

... was a dominant force in the populist wing of the Democratic Party and an enemy of the banks and their gold standard.

In his three presidential bids, Bryan promoted Free Silver in 1896 (because it reduced power attributed to money and put more money in the hands of the people), anti-imperialism in 1900, and trust-busting in 1908, calling on Democrats to fight the trusts (big corporations) and big banks, and embrace anti-elitist ideals of republicanism.

In other words, Bryan was sort of the Elizabeth Warren of his day.

The Nebraska populist got a shout-out this week in an Atlantic piece, "Mitt's Multiple Personalities," by David Graham.

But before I get to that, a question: If the economy continues to improve in the next couple of years, what will Republicans run on in 2016?

Would you believe, poverty and income inequality?

I'm serious. Just last Friday, on Real Time with Bill Maher, Carly Fiorina went into a bit of a rant on the subject. I kept waiting for someone to lean over and say, "Pssst! Carly! Those are Democrats' issues," but Maher cut her short to get to his "New Rules" segment.

Today, I read that Mitt Romney -- Mr. 47 percent -- may run for the White House in 2016 "with fighting poverty as the central theme of his campaign." Huh?

According to Graham's piece (all emphasis mine):

Incredibly, Romney now wants to run in 2016 as The Compassionate Conservative Champion of the Poor. There's a logic here. Since the economy has been steadily improving for years now, there's no need for a Mr. Fix-It, and in a field with candidates like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, Mitt Romney will never be the conservative choice. The premises of both of Romney's previous runs have been completely demolished, so he's creating a new one out of whole cloth. According to John Dickerson, he has acknowledged that the weak economy is no longer a good basis for a campaign, but he somehow is spinning it as a boon.

But this strategy assumes:

...voters are painfully cautious or too dumb to notice a rapidly shifting political identity. It's as if William Jennings Bryan, having failed in 1896 and 1900, had decided to run as the candidate of the gold standard and big banks in 1904.

So what do you think, can the party of the one percent suddenly become the champions of the poor and downtrodden? Sounds like a bit of a stretch to me.

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