The word on the street is that Sherrod Brown and Bernie Sanders will soon join Elizabeth Warren as economic populists contending for the Democratic nomination.
There has been a lot of argument in the press and among Democratic operatives and kibitzers about whether the party is better off with a populist or “someone who can win.” That’s a lot of hooey. It’s precisely a populist message and candidate who has what’s needed to win.
The risk is that Warren, Sanders, and Brown will crowd each other out and allow a more corporate Democrat to be nominated. Normally, a large field is winnowed down faster than one might imagine, because there is only so much money and so many volunteers to go around.
But these three could stay in for a while. Sanders has his loyalists from last time. Warren has an army of enthusiasts. And Brown will get a lot of labor backing. All will raise small money.
For almost half a century, not a single economic populist made it to the front of the pack. Carter, Mondale, Dukakis, Clinton, Gore, Kerry, Obama, and Hillary Clinton were all moderate liberals—decent people, but not committed to radical change.
The result of the inattention to profound structural power grabs, rigged rules, and the steady erosion of economic prospects for regular working Americans was Donald Trump.
If ever America was ready to elect a progressive economic populist, 2020 is the year. But now we will very likely have three, and three’s a crowd.
If anybody can think of a way for two of these good people to unite behind one, speak now.