Paul Krugman sees the election as a win for economic populism:
Ever since movement conservatives took over, the Republican Party has pushed for policies that benefit a small minority of wealthy Americans at the expense of the great majority of voters. To hide this reality, conservatives have relied on wagging the dog and wedge issues, but they’ve also relied on a brilliant marketing campaign that portrays Democrats as elitists and Republicans as representatives of the average American.
This sleight of hand depends on shifting the focus from policy to personal style: John Kerry speaks French and windsurfs, so pay no attention to his plan to roll back tax cuts for the wealthy and use the proceeds to make health care affordable.
This year, however, the American people wised up.
True to form, some reporters still seem to be falling for the conservative spin. “If it walks, talks like a conservative, can it be a Dem?” asked the headline on a CNN.com story featuring a photo of Senator-elect Jon Tester of Montana. In other words, if a Democrat doesn’t fit the right-wing caricature of a liberal, he must be a conservative.
But as Robin Toner and Kate Zernike of The New York Times pointed out yesterday, what actually characterizes the new wave of Democrats is a “strong streak of economic populism.”
Look at Mr. Tester’s actual policy positions: yes to an increase in the minimum wage; no to Social Security privatization; we need to “stand up to big drug companies” and have Medicare negotiate for lower prices; we should “stand up to big insurance companies and support a health care plan that makes health care affordable for all Montanans.”