This week, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez found a man and his son putting up a sign that shocked her. The sign read “Trump supporters for Ocasio-Cortez,” and was posted near other messages of support outside her office. The freshman representative was taken aback, and asked the man how he could support both of them. The man said that they were both “real” and “get it.” Meaningless platitudes, but they do hint at what the two share. Both Ocasio-Cortez and Trump are anti-establishment populists.
Both New York Democrats want to address problems everyone is aware of but that Washington won’t fix. Both are more concerned with telling the “truth” than telling it nicely. They aren’t afraid to upset the establishment, especially within their own party. And they’re both symptoms of the same disease. Populism is not successful now, or ever before, because of its own merits. It can only succeed electorally if the establishment is failing, and it’s no secret that the establishment has failed in America today.
Libertarians also play the populist game from time to time, though seemingly not as well. An ever-inflating national debt, expansive police state, perpetual warmongering, and an erosion of civil liberties sets the stage for a libertarian populist moment, but some would say that came and went in 2010. Rand Paul has seen few friends join him in the Senate, and the House seems to be losing liberty fighters. Does that mean populism is dying?
Probably not. It likely means populism is changing.
Trump picked up allies despite Republicans losing seats in 2018. Bernie Sanders-style populism hit the mainstream in 2016, and could very well take the White House in 2020, even if it isn’t Bernie himself. 2010 showed that populist movements affect all, not only those allied with the movement. Republicans found that out after 2010. They had to appeal to the Tea Partiers if they wanted to keep their seats. The changing of Lindsey Graham and the loss of Jeff Flake and Bob Corker showed that to be true again in the GOP during the reign of Trump, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is proof of the Justice Democrats’ power in the wake of Bernie Sanders.
So, despite disagreeing on taxes, healthcare, climate change, abortion, Israel, and just about anything else, there’s a lot in common between Donald Trump and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. And for what lies between them, there is quite a bit to learn. America is frustrated, and looking for answers. The 2020 race is already seeing more of this, with the excitement following candidates like Bernie Sanders, Andrew Yang, and, of course, Donald Trump.
The leader for the Democrats is Joe Biden, and the polls show him ahead of Donald Trump, but I seriously doubt either of those will hold. If Biden does win the nomination, book four more years of Donald Trump. Biden is too damaged, too old, too milquetoast, to win the presidency. Democrats won’t be excited by him, even though they’ll be excited about beating Donald Trump. The only chance he will have is people whose lives are stable, and who want a return to stable politics. Namely, that’s middle-class, suburban white people. They handed Republicans a failure in 2018, and they could do it again in 2020.
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