By Molly Ivins
AUSTIN, Texas—Having watched election coverage nonstop all week, I sometimes wake up screaming, “Bipartisanship!” and scare myself.
Of all the viral members of the media who have been suggesting that the Dems cooperate with their political opponents, the one who rendered me almost unconscious with surprise was Newt Gingrich.
Newt Gingrich, the Boy Scout. Newt Gingrich, the man who sat there and watched Congress impeach and try Bill Clinton for lying about having an extramarital affair while he, Newt Gingrich, was lying about having an extramarital affair. (This all took place during his second marriage. The first one ended when he told his wife he was divorcing her while she was in the hospital undergoing cancer treatment.)
This is the level of Republican hypocrisy that reminds us all how far the Dems have to go. I tell you what. Let’s all hold hands together and sing, “Oh, the Farmers and the Cowboys Should Be Friends!” Just not, please, Newt Gingrich, the man whose contribution to civility was to recommend that all Democrats be referred to with such words as cowards, traitors, commies, godless, liars and other such bipartisan-promoting terms.
Please, anyone but Newt.
Now, from my hours spent battered and half brain-dead listening to the fatuous, self-important commentators of our nation, I learn that the people of this country did not elect liberals to Congress last week. Nope, they elected populists! Well, gosh all hemlock. I’ll be go to hell. Populist! I AM one. Honest—been a populist so long I’m on my third bottle of Tabasco.
Who knew? I thought all said I was chopped liver. Populist. Like Tom Frank of “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” fame. Jim Hightower. We can even draw our lines of political genealogy—via Ralph Yarborough and Bob Elkhart.
A populist is pretty much for the PEOPLE and generally in this case exactly the same as a liberal—we just put the em-PHA-sis on a different syl-LA-ble. We also tend to be more fun. We do not vote to hurt average Americans, even if the corporate payoff is really big. Even if it’s just a little bit—like the bankruptcy bill.
We tend to focus less on social issues and more on who’s gettin’ screwed and who’s doin’ the screwin’. In my opinion, Americans are not getting screwed by the Republican Party. They are getting screwed by the Large Corporations that bought and own the Republican Party.
The word populist was misused, abused and co-opted by right-wingers for years, ever since we were all forced to read Richard Hofstadter’s “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.” Bad history can do a powerful amount of damage. Most of us stopped at the painful news that Tom Watson, leader of the late-19th century populism, went on to become a raging racist bigot. Populism itself took on the connotation of bile and nastiness, a la Father Coughlin.
If you read back to the beginning of the populist movement, however, you will find Andy Jackson and the West set against all those dreary snobs of the East. When Andy opened up the White House and let in the people, all the snobs had the fantods.
OK, it’s not the 19th century anymore, but it is always the right time to point out that the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes. Honest. There stands George W. Bush, buck nekkid. We want to help him out of this fix because he’s dragging the whole Army, the country and the world down with him. But don’t ask us to call those clothes.