But it is up to McCain to carry the torch of economic populism. He should castigate those who are pocketing their winnings earned by inducing the poor to risk all on mortgages they couldn’t afford even as their unscrupulous practices have led the country to the brink of recession. He needs to take aim at credit card companies and student loan providers who are burdening our young families with debts that make it impossible for them to realize their dreams or to be the consumers we need them to be. He should go after the loose ethics of Congress, earmarking, and the plethora of abuses in our nation’s capital. He needs to resume his role as the leading opponent of Big Tobacco in Congress, warning about its tactics in luring millions of kids into lifetime addictions. He must demand that hedge fund entrepreneurs and other partnerships pay the same taxes as working people and end their special tax benefits.
Populism is neither left nor right. As a populist, McCain will bond with the average American opposing the elites that dominate the Democratic Party.
The real fissure in the Republican Party is not between centrists and conservatives. It is between the rich and the rest. The country-club Republicans, perpetually defending privilege, are out of sync with the American people. But McCain has always been in step with our priorities and it is refreshing to see him emerge anew onto the field of political battle. This John McCain, the populist defender of people against privilege, can win in 2008. The ever-so-cautious, watch-out-who-you-alienate Republican who won the primaries can’t.