Progressive Populism Works

After the Beltway elite read the results of the special Senate election in Massachusetts last week as an indication of conservatism on the rise, Oregon voters clarified the message: It's not conservatism, but rather populism that is on the rise.

The notoriously anti-tax voters in Oregon went to the polls this month to vote on measures that would firm up state finances by raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy. The state's fickle electorate had spurned countless tax measures in past years, and indeed had not approved an increase to the state's income tax since 1930.

But with roughly 80 percent of the precincts reporting as of about 8:45 PM Pacific, Oregonians are bucking their anti-tax trend. By a 549,277-vote (55 percent) to 450,190-vote (45 percent) margin, voters are approving of increased taxes on high-income earners. By a similar 547,670-vote (54.3 percent) to 460,477-vote (45.7 percent) margin, voters are backing new taxes on corporations.

The message out of Oregon, like the message out of Massachusetts, is resonating: Voters are in a populist mood right now -- not an anti-government one, necessarily, but a populist one nevertheless. The progressive brand of populism that resonated with Oregonians this month is slightly different than the one that rang true in Massachusetts. Yet the message is just as clear.

The real question now is whether DC will listen, or if instead it will continue to cling to its common wisdom.

Tags: populism, progressive populism, Oregon, Taxes (all tags)




I'd wonder how much support the stimulus would have gotten if it was messaged differently?

A big part of Obama's problem is that he's seen as aloof, so even when nearly every economist (including many on the right) say the stimulus has been successful.  Yet the voters are rejecting it.

Another lesson from this vote (and the health care debacle) is that progressives have go back winning at the state level.  As for California, opposition to repealing or (better) modifying Prop. 13 is strong as ever.  Could a populist message work?  

by esconded 2010-01-27 12:06AM | 0 recs
RE: messaging

The reason the stimulus messages badly is becasue there has been little to no push back against the attacks on it. That and the unemployment rate is stalled at 10%. I understand that the stimulus was designed to halt the decline rather than boost the recovery, but that's also been missing from the messaging.



by vecky 2010-01-27 12:18AM | 0 recs
RE: messaging

Every time I see a poll, a majority of voters say the stimulus is working.  In what sense are they rejecting it?

by Steve M 2010-01-27 12:22AM | 0 recs
RE: messaging

The stimulus was at around 59% support before it passed (gallup) but quickly slipped into negative territory and has stayed there ever since.

The most recent poll, by CNN a few days ago found:

" Fifty-six percent of people questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Sunday say they oppose the stimulus package, with 42 percent supporting it. "

The real crazy thing about all these polls is that in the midst of the largest economic downturn in 70 years (last March-April), over 40% of the public oppossed a stimulus.

by vecky 2010-01-27 12:38AM | 1 recs
RE: messaging

But when they ask people whether they think the stimulus has worked, whether it has improved the economy, a majority always says yes.

by Steve M 2010-01-27 12:41AM | 1 recs
RE: messaging

Well, not the recent CNN poll which found that a majority said the stimulus funds had been largely wasted and had not helped the poor or middle class. The confusing of the stimulus with the bail-outs and the notion that the stimulus was composed largely of pork or hand-outs is pretty firmly engrained in large part of the populace.

by vecky 2010-01-28 01:39AM | 0 recs

Progressive populism. I was wondering how this would turn out, terrific. I read an article that had a focus group there, and people in the group were asking which side of the issue the banks were on, so they would go the opposite.

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-01-27 12:12AM | 1 recs
RE: yep

A good result - but how useful nationally? The margins are lower than Obama's victory (57-41), which would suggest that "higher taxes on the wealthy" (not actually a purely populist measure but whatever) can only take you so far.

by vecky 2010-01-27 12:22AM | 0 recs
RE: Obama's victory?

I'm not sure what you are referring to when you say "Obama's victory", but I assure you that wasn't the result of the 2008 Presidential Election.  Obama won the presidency by a little over 7% (52.9 to 45.7), not 16% as those numbers suggest.

What numbers are you speaking of when you refer to "Obama's victory"?  The popularity of the stimulus at the time it was passed?

by Obamaphile 2010-01-27 02:29AM | 0 recs
RE: Obama's victory?

Obama won 57-41 in Oregon.  But the overall point is lost on me.

by Steve M 2010-01-27 09:43AM | 0 recs
RE: Obama's victory?

Yes, Obama's victory margin in Oregon. The overall point is that even though this tax increase was modest and narrowly targetted on the rich - closely echoing Obama's camapaign plan on taxes, it still didn't do particualrly well. Note Clackamas County, a swing area (narrowly won by Bush), voted against the increase despite giving Obama a 10pt victory in 08. National Republicans can take comfort from that - the national mood on taxes hasn't moved very far off what it was in the 2000's and for democrats to sell this very very modest increase (just a return to clinton levels for the rich) is going to be tough.

by vecky 2010-01-28 01:43AM | 0 recs
too bad the White House

isn't willing to invest any political capital in raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, who received almost all the benefits from the Bush tax cuts.

by desmoinesdem 2010-01-27 01:30AM | 1 recs
Are you serious???

Will they listen????  HA  BIGGEST joke since time began.  They will NEVER listen.  They have us just where they want us, Right and Left in perpetual war.  As long as our government exists in its present form, nothing will change.

by scytherius 2010-01-27 02:02AM | 0 recs
Liberal vs. Conservative

This election offered voters a clear choice between liberal and conservative policies. It was on our ballot because Dems finally won control of the state legislature in the last election, after years of Republican tax favoritism toward corporations and upper income people. It specifically threw out a ridiculous $10 a year minimum corporate tax. That's not a typo. The usual suspects poured mega money into the opposition, which led to intense campaigning and GOTV. Proponents emphasized the need to maintain government programs during the recession. It won easily in Portland but also survived suburban swing voters and rural conservatism. Now how will the media work this liberal win into their narrative of a public in a conservative rebellion against taxes and government spending?

by DeanOR 2010-01-27 03:59AM | 2 recs
RE: Liberal vs. Conservative

The issue is neither liberal nor conservative. If all tax cut referendums in the future forces voters to specify spending cuts, no tax cuts will pass!

by Boilermaker 2010-01-27 08:44AM | 1 recs


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