Of course Democrats have to oppose the Bush tax cut.

And not just on principle. They also have to work their own angle, which is to rally their core constituencies (labor and the African-American, Hispanic, and white working poor) in a them-versus-us face off with concentrated economic power.

While populist uprisings are certainly cool, Democrats finally have to accept that sophomoric appeals to public anger and suspicion fall on apathetic ears in hip, high tech, and more often than not liberal suburbia.

The folks there are just as concerned about safe streets, getting their kids into good schools, and taxes as anyone else.

It’s just that ten years of anything-goes prosperity have immunized them against the Democrats myopic blood-in-the-streets rhetoric. These days, they don’t take kindly to other folks railing against the rich, because they’re pretty rich themselves. And they don’t mind tax cuts so much either.

In the end, whether the Bush tax cut is smart policy, or even gets through Congress, doesn’t matter. What matters in the war of ideas is the party that comes across as doing the most to allay people’s fears about terrorism, and the tanking stock market.

Democrats had their chance back in October, when antiwar fervor was high, and the stock market at record lows. They blew it then, and they’re blowing it now.

By forcing young, middle class professionals into the waiting arms of the Republicans, the Democrats are unwittingly losing a vital constituency.

Democrats can no longer afford to rely on their traditional base. The under classes are already on board, always were, always will be.

They should be trying harder to coddle a vanguard (did we say that?) of well-to-do, college-educated populists, who are sufficiently pissed off and can infuse a modern day New Deal with popular energy and legislative power to enact basic reforms.

If it’s populism that the Democrats want, it will have to be of a kinder, gentler variety.

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