Netroots Nation: Channeling the Power of Jobs, Populism and the Angry Voter

Where does populist anger over the economy go-left or right? It’s a question Working America has focused a great deal on as it relates to both policy and politics, in our discussions of a “working class at the tipping point,” in our daily work and as it relates specifically to this fall’s elections. This morning, a Netroots Nation panel also took up the question. “The 2010 Elections: Power of Jobs, Populusm and Angry Voters,”  moderated by Scott Paul, executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing featured pollster Mark Mellman, Coffee Party USA founder Annabel Park and Campaign for America’s Future blogger Dave Johnson.

Mellman set the stage with an overview of the recent bipartisan poll on attitudes toward manufacturing and economic policy. That poll found high levels of concern among voters-Democrats, Republicans, and Independents-about America’s loss of world economic leadership and a lack of action by the government to create jobs. Voters say manufacturing is the most important sector for a strong economy and to ensure national security and rejected the idea that other sectors, such as services or technology, can replace manufacturing.

Participating in a focus group held in conjunction with the poll, a woman from Chicago said that “If manufacturing is not successful then the economy is not successful.” The poll’s results, as Mellman detailed, show that her view is widespread.

Annabel Park used the example of the current devastation of the Gulf to highlight how interconnected economic factors can destroy lives in ways too often ignored by policymakers. Scott Voytko, for instance, found his auto body shop’s business slashed by the reduction in tourism to his Florida community, but BP refused to compensate him for his lost business, saying the oil spill was not directly responsible. People need help, Park said, right now and in direct ways, not through complex programs that take time to implement.

Dave Johnson contrasted the narrative coming out of the Great Depression with narratives now emerging. The Roosevelt administration, he argued, provided a strong narrative about who was responsible for the loss of jobs-and as a result, Roosevelt’s party was in power for a generation. By contrast, today corporate conservatives have had success pushing their own interpretations of who is to blame for economic hardship. As Johnson said:

With this conservative movement it seems facts don’t matter. What matters is repetition.

And with a powerful corporate media glad to repeat claims that the mortgage crisis was a result of the government directing lenders to give loans to unqualified minorities, or that the current budget deficit is a result of President Obama’s actions and not those of his predecessor, too many people have not only absorbed conservative interpretations of real events, they’ve been misled on the facts.

How do we combat this? Scott Paul closed the panel by pointing to elected officials like Sen. Sherrod Brown, Rep. Mark Schauer and Rep. Mark Critz, all of whom focused their campaigns on keeping jobs in their districts and improving trade agreements. Turns out that strengthening the economy by defending working families is not just the right thing to do, it’s also a winning strategy.

Whether winning for you means getting more votes than your opponent, selling more product, changing public policy, raising more money or generating more activism, The Mellman Group transforms data into winning strategies.