The Upbeat Populist

May 8 2012 @ 10:47am

Alec Macgillis detects in Obama's first campaign speech over the weekend a populism that is "upbeat and aspirational rather than caustic, that harkens more to the Progressives than the Bryan-style Populists, that ties fairness to growth and opportunity, that warns against excessive inequality without dwelling on it": 

All in all, the message Obama unveiled Saturday comes off as less “us versus them” than “all together now.”  … We built this country together. I'm pretty sure we'll be hearing even more of this line in the months ahead than the “people are people” line. (And it's surely no accident that Obama's new post-speech theme song is “We Take Care of Our Own,” from Springsteen's latest album.) This is the kind of populism that is suited to Barack Obama—that evokes the warm glow of the 2004 convention speech while also drawing a clear distinction with the eat-what-you-kill ethos of Bain Capital and the Ayn Randianism of Romney's Washington ally, Paul Ryan. It summons to action the 99 percent in a way that does not traffic in class-warfare rhetoric (though he'll still be accused of that, of course.) Most importantly, it has an inspirational cast for a candidate who has far less potential be conjure a spark than he did four years ago, but must find a way to do so nonetheless.