Labor unions hoped to turn the Wisconsin recall election into a rallying cause for their ailing movement. But a Democratic president couldn’t be dragged off the sidelines for the fight.And let me add that even the Democratic candidate in that election avoided talking about labor union matters. Tom Barrett talked — with stunning blandness — about a restoration of civility and working together.
When you get a few paragraphs into the long article, you'll see it's mostly complaints about the dynamics of campaign finance with lots of quotes from people Martin counts among the few "unapologetic populists" left in the party. But there's this nice summary:
*The political infrastructure doesn’t exist. Class-based partisan appeals by Democrats in the early and mid-20th century were typically supported by a robust and well-organized labor movement. That doesn’t exist in any similar form these days.
*Even populist politicians need money. Conspiracy theorists who believe campaign contributions drive the agenda aren’t altogether wrong. It is virtually impossible to be a successful national Democrat without relying heavily on business interests, including the financial industry, for campaign funds.
*The president, a man comfortable in elite circles, is not temperamentally inclined for the kind of sustained, rough-edged partisan combat that true populist politics requires. So, while he is tempted by populist appeals on some days, he often turns ambivalent and changes his message the next.
*Most important of all, lots of Democrats simply do not support populism, on either ideological or stylistic grounds. Many upscale Democrats believe that Washington needs less combat, not more, and populist messages strike them as irrelevant at best, demagogic at worst. Even some working-class voters have their assets in the stock market, because of their 401(k)s and IRAs, making even the most traditional of Democrats believe their interests are more in line with Wall Street than opposed.