On one hand, the turnout in last November’s elections was pitiful. On the other, there are huge numbers of a massive yet largely untapped political energy. Unfortunately, the only organized political reach-out to these justifiably angry citizens so far has been the Tea Party. I say unfortunately because it is not what it first appeared to be. Instead, as is better known today, it is manipulated by incredibly selfish plutocrats tapping into legitimate frustration at Washington.

Faux populism is not good enough, We need the real thing.

History shows that populism is one of America’s strongest traditions. It’s been an integral part of American culture since the 1700s. Of course both major parties have skittishly shied away from it. Oh they’ll say a couple of populist words, then as quickly as they can, move on. Under the power of their corporate funders, they recognize the power but remain afraid.

The days of the right’s exclusive ownership of the term are gone. There is a profound stirring lately, at least in New Hampshire, and mainstream presidential candidates had better pay attention to it’s great potential.

Up for grabs in the next election is the huge and growing number of disaffected occasional voters. The vast majority of young people didn’t even bother to vote this time.

A great many citizens are sick and tired of needing to hold their noses to get themselves to vote. People really want candidates to vote for, with enthusiasm. To seriously address the real economic issues facing us.

More and more of us recognize that the transformation from a republic to a plutocracy is nearly complete.  Meanwhile sheepish middle of the road candidates of both parties ignore this as they kowtow to their Wall Street benefactors.

Today everyone understands what is meant by the 1%. At it’s very beginning, America was founded on replacing the royal plutocracy, demanding democracy and a republican system instead. And yet look where we find ourselves today. Our government is not really ours any more. Especially in New Hampshire, we treasure self-government. What we see at the national level is anything but. The recognition that Washington is simply not serving us is growing fast.

There is great potential for a new and powerful populist coalition. If the middle class were strong, populism would have less appeal.

The brave candidate who champions populism will fire up a powerful new coalition. Think about the confluence of right and left on such issues as: people being able to participate in decisions which affect them. Stop protecting the big banks at the expense of everyone else.  End government spying on its citizens. Cut wasteful military adventurism and far off bases. Democratize the Federal Reserve. Cut the power of big banks, big oil, and big insurance. Protect internet freedom. Make sure police serve the common good. Drug laws decided by states or regions. Prison reform. Local/regional control or ownership of public utilities. Encourage locally grown food and small businesses. Freedom and community: what a concept.

These are but a few of the opportunities on which a powerful new left/right populist coalition can agree on and in doing so, restore traditional republican and democratic (yes, small r and d) American values.

People want candidates to vote FOR, with enthusiasm. “Centrists” who throw their lot in with Wall Street and the interests that currently own our government, won’t connect with this powerful and potentially massive new bloc of voters.

More of the same-old is not going to inspire angry voters in 2016. As in the 1770s, we want a government that serves the common good. Some 2016 hopefuls seem to be getting this.

Burt Cohen

Host of “Keeping Democracy Alive with Burt Cohen,” podcast on iTunes and Stitcher.com and broadcast twice weekly on WSCA Portsmouth, WNHN Concord, and WOOL Walpole. State senator 1990-2004. New Castle NH

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