Or, as I would put it, Tom Steyer thinking of eliminating middleman by signing up to directly lose a Senate seat: “Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer is mulling a run for Bar bara Boxer’s Senate seat, according to a person close to the former hedge fund trader.” …and there’s the trouble, right there for Mr. Steyer: all those adjectives. ‘Billionaire’ is at best, neutral. ‘Environmentalist’ is not really all that helpful, even in California. And ‘hedge fund trader’ is going to be a really fun club with which to beat the prospective candidate.
No, seriously. The last one is problematical for Steyer, and it’s all because of what the Atlantic kind of notes is the paradox of populism:
Populism usually refers to the idea that power should rest in the hands of the little guy, and not in the government or some elite. Public-opinion polls show that this basic form of populism has wide appeal… Much of the appeal is lost—that is, populism becomes much less popular—once leftist themes join the mix. There is little support for policies that look like wealth transfers, taking from the rich and giving to poor, reducing inequality, or making sacrifices for the common good. Large segments of the right and center view these policies as taking from “us” and giving to “them.” That’s why Social Security is so popular, while welfare is not. It’s the reason Medicare is very popular and Medicaid is much less so.
Although it’s not really a paradox: when a Lefty says ‘populism’ what he or she really means is ‘statism.’ The Left has a long history of finding intellectuals and self-selected ‘community organizers’ who selflessly take it upon themselves to dictate what the People truly want, and then providing it to the People to the best of their ability*. If this sounds remarkably like a scenario where power rests in the hands of the ‘government or some elite’… congratulations, you now know why every attempt within living American memory to mainstream a Lefty ‘populist’ movement has gone precisely nowhere. And this will not change any time soon.
Which is all tied into why I’m happy to hear that Tom Steyer is really contemplating running for Senate in California. It’s not so much that I think that he’d lose – if he got into one of the top two slots, his presumed Democratic party affiliation would give him a potent advantage – as that I expect that his campaign would leak money and attention like a sieve. And I further expect that Tom Steyer will make the classic rookie politician mistake and assume that any and all deficiencies in his campaigning** can be counteracted by enough cash. So, hey, this race keeps getting better and better…
Moe Lane (crosspost)
*Their abilities are invariably modest, alas.
**A look at the 2014 election cycle suggests that Tom Steyer is not a very good third-party adviser to political campaigns. Whether he would be a better campaigner is not yet known, but I feel that I can safely publicly doubt that Steyer would be any better at winning elections himself.