Column: America in 2008: Populism calls the shots

The US is bracing itself for another year – can it really be another year? – of electioneering. The prospect would be impossible to endure were it not for the fact that so much seems at stake. Democrats are enraged by the Bush administration’s record and by the ability of a weakened president and the Republican minority in Congress to shut the legislative system down and block their every initiative. They are straining to take over and tear up the Bush legacy, such as it is, by the roots. If the elections give Democrats the presidency and increased majorities in both houses, as seems likely, the US is going to see one of the most radical alterations in its political outlook for decades.

As things stand right now, the politics is all good for the Democrats and all bad for the Republicans. The time-series of national opinion-poll ratings for the Republican presidential candidates looks like the read-out of a patient having a stroke. The lines jerk up and down, as party supporters search desperately, and so far in vain, for a candidate they like. The surge from nowhere of Mike Huckabee – to join a three-way tie with Rudolph Giuliani and Mitt Romney – is partly a sign of this desperation. It threatens to split and even destroy the Republican coalition, by dividing social conservatives from economic conservatives.

Mainly, though, it underlines something even more significant than that: the growing appeal of economic populism among supporters of both parties.

You can read the rest of this new column for the FT here.

Clive Crook’s blog

This blog is no longer updated but it remains open as an archive.

I have been the FT's Washington columnist since April 2007. I moved from Britain to the US in 2005 to write for the Atlantic Monthly and the National Journal after 20 years working at the Economist, most recently as deputy editor. I write mainly about the intersection of politics and economics.

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