All American Common Sense
Here's Perlstein in Newsweek:
Our pundits worry that a populist rage is loose in the land—pitchforks everywhere! My first reaction upon hearing that was to dismiss the word "populist" as a distraction, an epithet meant to recall episodes in which mass rage made sound policy deliberation impossible. Think of dispossessed 19th-century farmers letting their righteous rage at bankers tumble easily into free-floating anger at "Jewish bankers" and then simply at Jews; of 1970s white South Boston parents stabbing busing advocates with American flags. My second reaction was to dismiss the word as inaccurate. What makes this rage "populist"? This is ordinary rage, rational and focused. The lead pitchfork bearers, after all, are people like New York Times business columnist Joe Nocera, who wrote that AIG's Financial Practices Group was guilty of a "scam" at which "we should be furious." You might more accurately call that common sense.
Casting my eye over the broader sweep of history, though, I no longer fear populism. The habit of messily dividing the world into "the people" and "the elite"—whether it's left calling out right, or right calling out left—is distinctively, ineluctably American. It's not going away. And there's much more to it than the name-calling of angry political factions. It is the governing folk wisdom of a nation without an inherited aristocracy, distrustful of privilege that is not "earned." It is our American common sense. read on.
This is where the right took its big wrong turn in recent years with its Randian insistence that wealthy dealmakers are the smartest, most productive people in the world. I don't suppose people care much during good times, but in bad times that's the kind of talk that makes a working person start to see pitchforks dancing in their heads.
I think I am still most bemused by the fact that these MOUs are so out of touch that they think they can actually convince people that they are not only indispensible but that they deserve to be rewarded for their failure by average working people. They are proving, once again, that they aren't nearly as good as they think they are.