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Welcome to the Party: WaPo Meets Populist Revolt Two Years Late

From Dan Balz writing at the Washington Post:

At the beginning of this year, the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania sponsored a focus group in the Denver suburbs composed of a dozen adults — Republicans, Democrats and independents. Looking back almost nine months later, the two-hour discussion proved to be a prescient guide to the surprising politics of 2015.

For any conventional politician paying attention, what was said there should have been unnerving. The name Donald Trump was never mentioned, nor was that of Ben Carson or Bernie Sanders. But the sentiments expressed that evening help explain why those three candidates are in the forefront of the political conversation on this Labor Day weekend.

The participants made it clear that they were fed up with politics as usual. They were harsh in their judgments about most traditional politicians, the political establishment and the way Washington works. They had no particular appetite for a clash-of-dynasties presidential campaign pitting a Bush against a Clinton.

They were especially critical in their assessments of Jeb Bush. They were tepid toward Hillary Rodham Clinton, although judgments fell more predictably along partisan lines. The participants longed for someone who seemed different and who they believed understood their lives. The name Elizabeth Warren, the populist senator from Massachusetts, sparked positive comments, even from some of the Republicans.

When the conversation was all over, pollster Peter Hart, who conducted the session, summed up what he had heard. “The political classes told us it’s going to be Bush against Clinton, but these people are hundreds of miles away from that choice,” he said. “Essentially what they’re telling us is, ‘I don’t trust these people. They’re part of an establishment that I don’t like.’ ”

This was in no way a scientifically drawn cross section of the population, and yet the collective voices of the dozen adults were an early manifestation of what has played out in the months since.

Read the rest of the story at the Washington Post.

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