The problem of Political Labels

Ross Douthat at the Alantic has an odd post about possible realignments of the our two political parties in reference to a number of posts about a liberal libertarian alliance. He says,
What could happen, instead, is a bigger-tent liberalism - somewhat chastened, perhaps, by some big-government failures in the Obama era - that makes libertarian intellectuals feel welcome, engages them in conversations about smarter regulations and more efficient tax policy, and generally woos them away from their culturally-dissonant alliance with people who attend megachurches and Sarah Palin rallies. This would make for a smarter left-of-center in the short run, but I think in the long run it would be pernicious. It would further the Democratic Party's transformation into a closed circle of brainy meritocrats, and push the Republican Party in a yet more anti-intellectual direction. And it would produce an elite consensus more impervious to structural critiques, and a right-wing populism more incapable of providing them. The Democratic Party would hold power more often, and become more sclerotic as a result; the GOP would take office less often, and behave more recklessly on those rare occasions when it did manage to seize the reins of state.

I'm confused by his use of the word populism. The right does have a rhetorical set that constantly inveighs against a so called elite. But it cannot be said that the republicans are truly populist because very few of their policies can be said to be truly populist. Entitlement reform for example under Bush took the form of privatizing social security. That would a massive wealth transfer from the middle class to the financial class. The details never got sorted out but I assume that there would have been a menu of options to invest in with the inclusion of all of the normal fees that mutual funds and such charge for their services.

But the largest problem seems to be a misunderstanding of the voter coalition that the Republican Party has constructed. If we look at the 2004 election, people who made less than $50,000 voted for Kerry way above Bush by 55 to 44. People who made more than $50,000 voted for Bush above Kerry by 56 to 43.

But if what we are talking about is really just a style not an actual voting coalition nor an actual set of policies, then I'm not sure what the point is.

My suspicion though is that Ross has conveniently forgotten about everyone who isn't white. For example even though many people argued that Bush had some sort of rapport with Hispanics he still lost them as a cohort, 53 to 44. His win was entirely based on an middle class and up coalition of whites.

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