Classic Read: How Democrats Killed Their Populist Soul

Matt Stoller’s How Democrats Killed Their Populist Soul is the best political analysis I’ve read all year. It offers a solid argument to how economic populism fell out of the national narrative—and accelerated the decline of the American middle class.

It’s hard to believe today, but seventy years ago Bernie Sander’s ideas were fairly common on the left. Stoller traces how they became rare. He examines the forces that moved the Democratic party from one in fierce opposition to monopoly power to one that embraced it. I really do hope Stoller has a larger thesis in mind, because I’d love to read a book on it.

I’d recommend reading the entire piece. However, I wrote up some highlights for the lazy below.

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Obama, Thurgood Marshall and the Importance of a Long Term Vision

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oday marks the 21st anniversary of the death of Thurgood Marshall.  He was a complicated man and perhaps the person most responsible for ending segregation in America; first as Chief Counsel of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund and then as a Supreme Court Justice. Marshall had immeasurable courage, once saving an innocent plaintiff from certain execution by interrupting a poker game between the President of the United States and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. When asked by Marshall to sign a stay of execution Chief Justice Fred Vinson remarked, “I’ll tell you one thing, if you’ve got guts enough to break in on this, I’ve got guts enough to sign it.”

For those interested in learning more about Marshall I’d recommend Gilbert King’s Devil in the Grove a Pulitzer Prize winning investigation into the 1949 Groveland Four Trial. The book offers a history of the civil rights movement, a biography of Thurgood Marshall, and a parallel to Obama’s second term strategy. 1

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verturning 100 plus years of institutional racism needed not only courage, but a legal and strategic genius. Marshall was both. If he found out that a judge liked English precedents he would craft a brief overflowing with English cases from the 1700s. If he needed help from federal officials he would release a well-placed memo condemning communism. If he needed information from a rival he would take them out drinking. “He’d get a lot of outside lawyers together in a room, and he’d be talking and laughing and drinking along with the rest of them and getting everybody relaxed and open, and he’d seem to be having such a good time with them that you wouldn’t think he was listening.” Franklin Williams a former NAACP lawyer turned diplomat later recalled, “But after they’d left, there it all was—he’d had the benefit of all their brains, which was his strategy in the first place.”

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