In This Review

Take This Job and Ship It: How Corporate Greed and Brain-Dead Politics Are Selling Out America
Take This Job and Ship It: How Corporate Greed and Brain-Dead Politics Are Selling Out America
By Byron L. Dorgan
Thomas Dunne Books, 2006, 288 pp.
Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause
Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause
By Richard A. Viguerie
Bonus Books, 2006, 271 pp.
War on the Middle Class: How the Government, Big Business, and Special Interest Groups Are Waging War on the American Dream and How to Fight Back
War on the Middle Class: How the Government, Big Business, and Special Interest Groups Are Waging War on the American Dream and How to Fight Back
By Lou Dobbs
Viking, 2006, 256 pp.

As political support for the Bush presidency erodes, the biggest question in U.S. politics is where the Jacksonian populists will go. Southern white evangelicals and northern Catholics are the two traditionally Democratic voting blocs whose shift into the Republican column has tilted the balance toward the GOP. Will Democrats be able to capitalize on Jacksonian discontent to rebuild a New Deal-like dominant coalition, or at least to equalize the playing field? Three new populist books -- one by Democratic Senator Dorgan, of North Dakota, one by the seasoned Republican operator Viguerie, and one by CNN news anchor Dobbs, who is sick and tired of both parties -- provide a window onto the populist mindset in what is rapidly turning, politically, into a post-Bush era. All three are attempts to appeal to the "angry middle class" and share a common distrust of the nation's corporate and political establishments. Although mainstream economists and many others will blanch at the policy proposals, these are vitally important books for anyone trying to understand U.S. politics in today's difficult times.

"Take This Job and Ship It" represents a classic Democratic take on the populist message: evil corporations and their hired politicians and think-tank intellectuals are leading the assault on the middle class. Drug companies come in for their share of attack, but Dorgan's chief ire is aimed at outsourcing: greedy CEOs are sending U.S. jobs to developing countries where dictatorial governments oppress workers and keep wages down.

Viguerie fingers some of the same culprits, but his indictment is broader. Evil, wage-cutting corporate leaders are not only outsourcing U.S. jobs: they are allowing low-wage illegal immigrants into this country. Dorgan sees government as at least potentially the ally of the middle class; politicians and big government are always the enemy for Viguerie -- including the "big government Republicans" who, he believes, have betrayed the conservative cause. He calls for classic populist measures: term limits, initiatives and referendums at the national level, and uncompromising cultural warfare against media and political elites.

Dobbs comes closest to expressing the full range of populist resentment and ideology. He shares Dorgan's opposition to outsourcing and Viguerie's horror at the pace of illegal immigration. Less rigid on social issues than Viguerie, Dobbs nevertheless accuses the media, corporate, political, and cultural elites of a wholesale abandonment of patriotism and the other core middle-class values. It may be that none of this is a reliable introduction to economic theory, but anyone who wants to understand the forces reshaping U.S. politics would be well advised to read these books anyway.