More than any other figure, Shrum has crafted the populist philosophy that for two decades has been the hallmark of Democratic politics: the belief that "powerful forces" stand in the way of progress for average Americans, and that Democrats are the only agents of change who will fight to restore balance and fairness. It has become one of the most potent and oft-used strains of Democratic rhetoric, famously echoed in Al Gore's 2000 campaign pledge to fight in behalf of "the people, not the powerful" against the "special interests."
And how does that relate to Kerry?
What is perhaps most fascinating about the coming election is that Shrum's trademark populism, which seemed so discordant just two years ago, will suddenly have renewed resonance. With much of the country passionately aligned against President Bush, the consummate Shrum villain if ever there was one, the sociological and political landscape may at last be hospitable to the consultant's steadfast world view. And a win for Kerry would bestow on Shrum the one thing that separates him from Karl Rove: credit for bringing a President to power.
If, however, Kerry loses, he will become the second patrician Democrat in two presidential elections to do so on populist themes of economic and class warfare. It's hard to see how Shrum's outsize reputation—and by extension the current direction of the Democratic Party—could possibly remain intact.
It's a good day for reading about Shrum, because Kaus is also on his case. ("Can Shrum Do Centrism?") "Shrummery" is Kaus's word, and here's his bottom line:
[A]sking Shrum--who's spent much of his life looking for the next JFK--to be the man to tell Kerry--who's spent all of his life trying to be the next JFK--that he isn't the next JFK seems way too much to expect.