Krugman’s Populist Fantasies

Paul Krugman’s transformation into a Howard Beale wannabe continues to (take your pick) astound/amuse/sadden. In today’s column, Krugman blasts Barack Obama for his “naïve” refusal to demonize those with whom he disagrees on public policy issues. Siding instead with John Edwards, he endorses the view that “America needs another F.D.R. — a polarizing figure, the object of much hatred from the right, who nonetheless succeeded in making big changes.”

Hmm, who’s the one being naïve here? Let’s recall that F.D.R. won the presidency in the depths of the worst economic cataclysm in American history – public blame for which fell squarely on his partisan and ideological opponents. Consequently, F.D.R. entered the White House with 313 fellow Democrats in the House and 61 in the Senate. Under the circumstances, it is entirely understandable that he didn’t worry too much about maintaining bipartisan good feeling.

But does anybody think that the political environment in 2009 will be remotely similar to that of 1933? Even assuming that a Democrat wins the White House and Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress are maintained, how likely is it that “big changes” are going to occur without some significant level of Republican support?

Based, no doubt, on the direct line to vox populi afforded him by his twin perches at the New York Times and Princeton University, Krugman is convinced that the hour of the angry populist is at hand. “[T]here’s every reason to believe,” he writes, “that the Democrats can win big next year if they run with that populist tide.” Krugman cites as confirming evidence CNN and FoxNews focus groups that declared Edwards the winner of the most recent Democratic debate. He’s curiously silent, however, about all the other polls that show Edwards trailing badly behind the more centrist Hillary Clinton and Obama.

At the end of his column, Krugman accuses those who long for a less vitriolic politics of “projecting their own desires onto the public.”

That’s funny.

[cross-posted from www.brinklindsey.com]