I neglected yesterday to bring our readership’s attention to the Wall Street Journal op-ed from Jon Cowan and Jim Kessler of Third Way, which, as its name would suggest, is one of those center-hugging, trans-partisan groups associated with the Clinton-Blair style muted liberalism of the 1990s. That might sound like damning with faint praise, and to be sure there are lots of reasons to look skeptically and scornfully on “centrism” often ends up either meaningless mush or off-label liberalism (or “No Labels” liberalism—heh).
But I know a few of the Third Way people (not these two writers), and while I’ve argued with them on specific issues, I’ve come to like and respect them. In fact, last summer here I singled out a Third Way report for praise for saying we needed to get control of entitlement program spending lest it eat up spending for everything else, including defense.
Cowan and Kessler yesterday took aim at the left-leaning populism of Elizabeth Warren and New York City’s new Sandinista Mayor Bill de Blasio, and saying such economic populism would be “a disaster” for Democrats:
The political problems of liberal populism are bad enough. Worse are the actual policies proposed by left-wing populists. The movement relies on a potent “we can have it all” fantasy that goes something like this: If we force the wealthy to pay higher taxes (there are 300,000 tax filers who earn more than $1 million), close a few corporate tax loopholes, and break up some big banks then—presto!—we can pay for, and even expand, existing entitlements. Meanwhile, we can invest more deeply in K-12 education, infrastructure, health research, clean energy and more.
Well, the left-populists are not about to take this lying down. Or just lying. They’re responding in the usual, with rational arguments threats and intimidation. As the Puffington Host reports:
WASHINGTON—A Monday op-ed by the centrist think tank Third Way railing against economic populism has sparked a liberal counterattack, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) calling on big banks to disclose their financial contributions to think tanks and progressive groups calling on Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-Penn.), who is running for governor, to drop her affiliation with the group.
Of course, Warren’s real message to the banks is that they stay in line, as another paragraph makes clear:
Warren’s position, of course, would affect more than just Third Way. For example, she will be speaking at the Center for American Progress next week, which also does not disclose its donors, but does accept contributions from corporations. It recently held an event with Goldman Sachs.
The attacks illustrate how Democratic centrism, once in vogue in the 1990s, is rapidly falling out of favor in the Democratic Party.
Run, Elizabeth, Run! We thought Howard Dean was fun in 2004. This would be way more fun.