False Left-Right Choice: We Need a Real Populist Movement

By Jim Hightower – Alternet

If a political pollster came to my door and asked whether I consider myself a conservative or a liberal, I’d answer, “No.”
Not to be cute–I have a bit of both in me–but because, like most Americans, my beliefs can’t be squeezed into either of the tidy little boxes that the establishment provides.
Also, most of the big issues that our country faces defy right-left categorization. Take conservatism. It’s a doctrine that classically embodies caution and…well, conservation. Yet the gushing and spreading Gulf Coast oil disaster was caused by people who proudly identify themselves as conservatives–including top executives of BP, Halliburton, and Transocean, as well as the top regulatory officials involved. However, they’re not conservatives, they’re anything-goes corporatists. Likewise, the five Supreme Court justices who recently enthroned corporate money over democracy (Lowdown, March 2010) are routinely labeled by the media as “conservative”–but their reckless rulings destroy our democratic values, rather than conserve them. Again, corporatists all.
As I’ve rambled through life, I’ve observed that the true political spectrum in our society does not range from right to left, but from top to bottom. This is how America’s economic and political systems really shake out, with each of us located somewhere up or down that spectrum, mostly down. Right to left is political theory; top to bottom is the reality we actually experience in our lives every day–and the vast majority of Americans know that they’re not even within shouting distance of the moneyed powers that rule from the top of both systems, whether those elites call themselves conservatives or liberals.
For me, the “ism” that best encompasses and addresses this reality is populism. What is it? Essentially, it’s the continuation of America’s democratic revolution. It encompasses and extends the creation of a government that is us. Instead of a “trickle down” approach to public policy, populism is solidly grounded in a “percolate up” philosophy that springs directly from America’s founding principle of the Common Good.

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