Tuesday, August 06, 2002

More on Gore (and Clinton)

Among the best responses to Al Gore's populism is William Saletan's on Slate. Saletan contrasts Gore to his old boss, Bill Clinton, who "didn't impugn the motives of Republicans. He accused them not of siding against ordinary people but of failing to help. . . .[t]he point was to build up not tear down; to 'put people first,' not to put the rich in their place. Corporations weren't evil just because they were powerful; all Clinton asked was that they join his 'New Covenant' of mutual responsibility. . . .That isn't the populism Gore preached in 2000. Gore's message was all about us and them. Republicans were sinister, he implied: 'They're for the powerful. We're for the people.'" Gore's populism is angrier, more focussed on bashing his enemies than Clinton's; it also wins him less votes.

An alternative response comes from Joshua Micha Marshall who is more enamored of Gore's agonistic populism. Dissatisfied with Saletan's apology for Clinton's accomodation, Marshall reminds us that the happier, friendlier populism of Bill Clinton is also the unprincipled practicality of "Slick Willy."


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