Third Way, Centrist Leaders Warn Party of Economic Populism, Offer Alternative Democratic Agenda

October 28, 2015

WASHINGTON – Third Way President Jon Cowan today joined Delaware Governor Jack Markell (D-DE), former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley and New Democrat movement founder Elaine Kamarck to issue a warning to their Party about the political perils of economic populism and to unveil a major new report, Ready for the New Economy. The report, which includes more than 70 policy ideas to create more skills, jobs, and wealth for the middle class, will serve as the centrist Democratic alternative to economic populism.

“The left’s retro economic populism does not work substantively or politically and has cost Democrats the House and the Senate,” said Cowan. “To regain majorities and boost middle class prosperity, Democrats must move past populism and embrace a modern, pro-growth economic message and agenda. It’s time for Democrats to be Democrats, not Socialists.”

Daley continued: “I am concerned about where the Party is today. Democrats have lost the middle class in three consecutive elections by an average of 7 points and a combined margin of 20 million votes. Economic populism is not the answer. Democrats need a centrist governing agenda that generates economic growth and directly benefits the middle class. This report offers one.”

The bold, actionable, and fully paid-for ideas in Third Way’s Ready for the New Economy report make the twin forces of globalization and technological change work for Americans—not against them. They usher in a skills revolution through the entire learning lifecycle so that far more Americans possess the skills to get and hold 21st century middle class jobs. They boost private sector job creation by lowering barriers to exports overseas and jobs here at home, all while increasing job-creating public investments. And they give Americans a better shot at financial security with over $500 billion in wealth-building policies.

“As a Governor, I think about how to help middle class families succeed in the new economy every day,” said Gov. Markell. “We need a new direction that creates jobs, growth, and wealth in an economy where businesses can locate, hire, and expand anywhere in the world. This report offers more than a critique of populism; it offers an ambitious and politically effective economic alternative for the Democratic Party to pursue in the 21st century.”

Kamarck offered an historical perspective on the relative political merits of economic populism, noting that the New Democratic movement grew out of a similar crisis for the Party. She continued, “The populist agenda simply doesn’t get the middle class ready for the new economy in a rapidly changing world. This centrist alternative would actually create broad prosperity and empower people with modern skills that better prepare them for the new economy.”

U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) added, “Democrats—and Republicans—need to stop thinking about winning the next election and start thinking about how to put this country on the right track to win in the global marketplace. This report by Third Way can help focus policymakers on what we can do to help solve the riddle of middle-class wage stagnation so that Americans do better for themselves and their families.”

New Democrat Coalition Chair U.S. Representative Ron Kind (D-WI) continued, “People in towns across America have watched innovation and global economic growth change the way we receive goods and services. It has become clear that in order to compete in this new economy we need to have policies in place that help our workers develop new skills, create more jobs, and provide financial security. I encourage all my House colleagues to take the time to read Third Way’s report, Ready for the New Economy, to get a sense of how we can help make sure America thrives in this new economy.”

Press Contacts

Ladan Ahmadi

Senior Media Relations Manager



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