Thursday, November 16, 2006

Bad news: Smaller-world Elected Officials

Bad news for our economy. People who oppose economic growth were elected. And they didn't hide their backwardness. Jacob Weisberg reports at Slate: "The Lou Dobbs Democrats - Say hello to the new economic nationalists."
... we saw enough during the campaign to be alarmed about one tendency in particular: economic nationalism. Many of the Democrats who recaptured seats held by Republicans have been described as moderates or social conservatives, who will be out of synch with Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi. The better term, with props to Fareed Zakaria, is probably illiberal Democrats. Most of those who reclaimed Republican seats ran hard against free trade, globalization, and any sort of moderate immigration policy. That these Democrats won makes it likely that others will take up their reactionary call. Some of the newcomers may even be foolish enough to try to govern on the basis of their misguided theory. There is an important distinction to be made between economic populism and economic nationalism. Many of Tuesday's Democratic victors stressed familiar populist themes: the little guy against the big guy; corporate misbehavior; and tough times faced by working people. Al Gore ran in 2000 as an economic populist and so, implausibly, did John Kerry in 2004. Raising the minimum wage (which Republicans stupidly failed to do before the election) is a classic populist position. Opposing Bush tax cuts for the wealthy is another.
The distinction:
But in places where Democrats made their most-impressive inroads this year, one heard a distinctly different message of economic nationalism. Nationalism begins from the populist premise that working people aren't doing so well. But instead of blaming the rich at home, it focuses its energy on the poor abroad. The leading economic nationalist today is probably Lou Dobbs, who on nights other than Election Night natters on against free trade, outsourcing, globalization, and immigration on CNN.
We have more work than ever explaining that everyone wins with trade and economic freedom.

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