Monday, May 16, 2005

Suburban Populism

If you've watched the news today, you've no doubt heard about this case, in which the Supreme Court banned state laws prohibiting direct shipment of wine to residents from out-of-state wineries, while allowing direct shipment from within-state wineries.

While the MSNBC story doesn't mention it, this Washington Post story does, and many of the TV reports I saw today mentioned the Institute for Justice, which spearheaded this case.

The Institute for Justice is great! This case, along with this case, this case, and probably many others have tremendous populist, "looking-out-for-the-little-guy" appeal.

Whereas the Cato Institute often gets unfairly portrayed as a lacky for the Bush Administration, I haven't seen any claims of the Institute for Justice being "right wing." Plus the name is awesome! Not just any old legal group....THE Institute for Justice. Sure, there may be other "institutes" working for "justice," but this is THE Institute for Justice.

This victory, along with this post at Liberty for Sale, makes me think that the best way for libertarians to be successful, for at least the foreseable future, is to strive to create a public image of populism by advocating practical positions that most Americans agree with. Legalize medical marijuana, reduce unnecessary, arbitrary, and unfair regulations, reduce taxes (or at least don't raise them), increase consumer opportunity by opposing regulations like this, etc.

Of course, there are less populist issues that libertarians can still support without looking like tri-corner hat-wearing weirdos, such as Social Security reform, income tax reform, support for free international trade, etc.

But it's the populism that will get you the votes. Republicans have been extremely successful by latching onto Christian populism. Now it's time for libertarians to win by latching onto suburban populism.

Jesse Ventura is a suburban populist. From this article in The Nation:
"In the high-income professional suburbs, Jesse did poorly," says Myron Orfield, a Democratic member of the Minnesota House and an expert on political demography and regional planning. "In the less affluent suburbs, which are full of households making less than $50,000 a year, often on two jobs or more, he did very well. He also won northeast Minneapolis, which is blue-collar land. And he did better in poor parts of the city than he did in the yuppie areas. The only place where the Democrats held their base was in the Iron Range, where he wasn't that strong."

Even more stunning, in a half-dozen suburban counties ringing Minneapolis-St. Paul to the north and west, Ventura won an absolute majority of the vote. All six of these counties--Anoka, Chisago, Isanti, McLeod, Sherburne and Wright--voted for Clinton over Dole in 1996. They are full of politically independent swing voters coveted by both parties. Indeed, Paul Wellstone spent a great deal of time in these counties during his 1996 re-election campaign. In each one, Ventura actually got more votes than Clinton.

I personally know people in these areas that voted for Ventura that probably didn't vote for Bush (and definitely not Badnarik!) Common sense rules here, as it does throughout the U.S. Someone like Ventura who can, despite his celebrity, seem like a regular old everyman, can do excellent in any election.

That's why I signed the petition.

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