Progressive Populism on the Rise
by Jonathan Singer, Thu Apr 22, 2010 at 04:56:55 PM EDT
I have written a bit on what I call "progressive populism" -- the trend we have seen in the country that, like its conservative cousin, comes from a deeply seated anti-elite and anti-establishment sentiment, but which is unique in that its manifestations are less anti-government than opposed to powerful interests. As seen in Oregon earlier this year, this trend led to the first income tax increase approved by voters in 80 years, one directed at the wealthy and at corporations. Now word comes from SurveyUSA, via Swing State Project, that voters in Washington are exhibiting the same kind of progressive populism in a strong way:
A proposed initiative would create an income tax in Washington state on people making $200,000 per year and on couples making twice that. It would also cut the state's portion of the property tax by 20%, and end the business and occupation tax for small businesses. Do you support? Or do you oppose? This proposed initiative?
Support: 66 percent
Oppose: 27 percent
This measure, which would increase revenue while not raising taxes on the middle class, earns strong support across the board from the Washington electorate -- not only from Democrats (75 percent of whom support the initiative) but also from Independents (63 percent support) and even Republicans (57 percent support). Remarkably, the initiative draws support even from self-described Conservatives, who support the measure by a 50 percent to 45 percent margin.
I have said it before -- including in the halls of the West Wing: Progressive populism works. If the Democrats hope to be tap into some of the clear unhappiness of the electorate, rather than letting that discontent sweep them out of office, they would be well served to read these numbers and learn that while voters are definitively in an anti-establishment mood, they are not necessarily in an anti-government one, and, what's more, their unease about the current economic climate might actually compel progressive, rather than conservative, change if framed effectively.