Calling what Sarah Palin and the Tea Partiers practice “populism” is backwards, writes Peter Beinart. In fact, they’re “anti-Populists.” The original Populists, in the late 19th century, “cursed Washington because it wasn’t powerful enough” to protect the people from the greed of “the privileged few” on Wall Street, Beinart writes. They wanted to expand and democratize government, using it to nationalize the nation’s infrastructure and regulate special interests.
But when Tea Partiers talk about the “privileged few,” Beinart writes on the Daily Beast, they “don’t mean moneyed interests.” For them, privileged few “means government,” a Washington they don’t believe “can be democratized.” But “by disempowering government—by reducing its oversight of Wall Street, as Palin demanded at the Tea Party convention—the Tea Partiers actually strengthen the very moneyed interests” the Populists opposed. “It’s time the media called them by their rightful name.”