The riotous tea parties and angry town hall meetings of last summer seemingly took everyone by surprise. They shouldn’t have: populistmovements have always arisen in times of economic hardship and uncertainty. In Mad As Hell, pollsters Scott Rasmussen and Doug Schoen use extensive and original research to explore the mind and heart of the populist uprising that has suddenly thrown American politics into turmoil.
In the past, populist movements have taken root either on the right or on the left. Today’s populist revolt is unusually broad and has two wings: a left wing that wants universal health care and redistributiveeconomic policies, and a right wing that wants to reduce the power of government to interfere in our lives. Both are hostile to the Washington political class, Wall Street, and the mainstream media—all of which they consider out of touch with the concerns of “real” Americans. The key difference is that left populists are effectively represented by Barack Obama and congressional Democrats who are pursuing their agenda, while right populists are chiefly representedby Fox News and Rush Limbaugh— an angrier and potentially more powerful political force.
So-called professionals in politics, business, and media have completely failed to comprehend the new populism and have dismissed it as marginal and extreme. The authors explore the broad-based natureof the new populist movement and explain how it is reshaping American politics—whether politicians and elite journalists like it or not.
The Tea Party movement is not a flash in the pan,as many have assumed. Nor is it a movement of racist rednecks and ignorant boobs, as its detractors have crudely suggested. To the contrary, it is an authenticgrassroots movement of concerned American citizens demanding to be heard by an out-of-touch political establishment. Their concerns are real and their issues are legitimate, the authors maintain; moreover, the new populism is here to stay, and it has already changedour politics for the better.
In Mad As Hell, Rasmussen and Schoen have produced an authoritative guide to the new populism, featuring a combination of proprietary polling data, political analysis, results from online focus groups,and interviews with on-the-ground players. It is must-reading for anyone interested in American electoral politics for the remainder of the decade.