Is Populism the Real Story of 2020? (Liner Notes)

End the week with my latest column at The Federalist, which asks”Do Elizabeth Warren And Bernie Sanders Preview A Democratic Populist Crack-Up?” In the tradition of people > events > ideas as what a mass audience wants to read, the piece begins with the two left-wingers in the top tier of the Democratic presidential campaign, but eventually broadens to consider the medium-term risks of populism for the party.

Things got left out of the column, though more for clarity than space. The genesis of the piece was the anticipated (though possibly not happening) conflict between Warren and Sanders. The story about New York’s Working Families Party endorsing Warren over Sanders (whom they endorsed in 2016) caught my eye as perhaps a flashpoint, as did the Democratic Socialists of America lining up behind Bernie.

As often happens, I ended up collecting a sort of cloud of links around this nexus, and it was Warren’s NYC speech that crystallized the thought for me that the role of populism in the 2020 campaign was probably being underplayed. (Odd when you consider how big a topic it was in 2016.) And I recalled writing about the concerns the right had about the (ultimately unrealized) potential of Organizing For America. Putting those elements together, along withe the major political parties declining in significant part due to populist reforms, allowed me to look at that longer-term danger.

The shorter-term risk is enhanced by the fact that the top three candidates’ core supporters have notably different demographic profiles. Getting into that would have taken the focus off my main thesis, but it shouldn’t be ignored by you when thinking about the campaign.

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