What kind of populism?

The premise of this Newsweek article is that Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) is poised to become the leader of a bloc of conservative Senate Democrats–who, not coincidentally, are up for reelection in 2012–in opposing aspects of President Obama’s “progressive agenda.” Webb, we’re told, is a “Jacksonian populist” who thinks that Democrats don’t pay enough attention to the white working class and are too deferential to the “upper crust of academia and the pampered salons of Hollywood.”

Now, maybe there’s more to this than meets the eye, but my litmus test of genuine populism goes beyond denouncing “cultural elites” to actually taking on the economic royalists who wield much of the real power in America. And yet, despite all Webb’s concern for the working class, I didn’t see the following words appear anywhere in the article: banks, foreclosures, Wall Street, jobs, off-shoring, outsourcing, or inequality. Surely any populism worth the name, if it isn’t just a stalking-horse for right-wing cultural resentments, should address these issues?

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