Afraid to Stoke Populist Ire, Obama Abandons 'Inequality' Rhetoric

As reported by the Washington Post on Saturday, President Obama is heeding the instructions and advice of pollsters and political consultants as the administration abandons its flirtation with populist rhetoric and a brief White House push to make the scourge of economic inequality a political issue.

Instead, according to officials who spoke to the Post‘s Zachary Goldfarb, the administration will pivot towards more “politically palatable” messaging less likely to draw critique from Wall Street and the political right.

According to Goldfarb’s reporting, the shift in tactics


On the progressive left, both inside and outside of the Democratic Party, much new energy is being funneled into the idea that a “new populist moment” is the only hope for reinvigorating a progressive agenda in the face of election cycles increasingly dominated by the interests of big money donors and corporate cash.

This month, The Nation magazine dedicated an entire issue to ideas around ‘progressive strategies” for this new “populist moment.” In one essay, written by Rev. William J. Barber, head of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP and the chief political voice of the Moral Monday movement taking shape in the south, said that the only winnable strategy is one that transcends the major parties, the normal divisions, and focuses on deep forms of justice while articulating a clear vision.

“We need a transformative movement—state-based, deeply moral, deeply constitutional, pro-justice,” he said. “We need to build for the long term, not around one issue or campaign.”

Robert Borosage—head of the Institute for America’s Future which held a conference on progressive populism in May that featured Rev. Barber, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and many others—says the “sad irony of American politics is that the right is far weaker than it appears and the left far stronger than it asserts.”

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Looking towards the likely presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton in 2016, says Borosage, offers an illustrative point about the challenges faced by progressives who are so frequently abandoned by Democrats so closely aligned with Wall Street. He writes:


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