America needs more than populist message

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(CNN)With Donald Trump and Ted Cruz locked in a bitter battle for the Republican nomination, the stakes in 2016 rise dramatically. The likely victory of either one of these deeply flawed candidates will give Democrats a chance not only to hold the White House, but also to realign U.S. politics. No wonder Republicans are panicking.

To seize the opportunity, however, Hillary Clinton will need to transcend the limits of a “populist” message based on identity politics, economic victimhood and redistribution. Thus far such themes have dominated the nomination battle with Sen. Bernie Sanders, but they won’t help Democrats forge a broader political coalition that includes suburban moderates, college-educated independents and many Republicans who are aghast at the prospect of branding the White House with a giant “T.”


    Conservatives’ animus toward government blinds them to the ways policy can speed and spread innovation. For example, federal policymakers should free spectrum to extend the digital revolution to the 80% of the U.S. economy that is physical. Building on America’s technological prowess and entrepreneurial culture, the coming Internet of Everything can stimulate advanced manufacturing and open vast new fields of opportunities for U.S. workers.
    Tax policy is another underrated policy instrument for stimulating investment and growth. Rather than sock Americans with higher taxes to pay for massive expansions of government, as Sanders has proposed, pro-growth progressives should cut middle class taxes and bring corporate tax rates down to globally competitive levels.
    Free college sounds good, but of course someone will have to pay for it. Instead, progressives could give working families a break by encouraging U.S. colleges to grant degrees in three years rather than four. That’s the norm in many European countries, and it would immediately cut college costs by 25%. By awarding degrees based on demonstrated competency rather than seat time, progressives can give a leg up to learners who work full-time.
    There are plenty of ways to help low-income and working families to get better career and technical training, buy homes and use smart phones to cut through bureaucratic barriers and manage the public resources dedicated to helping them escape poverty. But the point here is simple: The best antidote to Trumpian demagoguery — or Cruz’s radical right agenda — is an optimistic vision for enabling working Americans to adapt to change and create a new shared prosperity in the digital age.
    It’s time for progressives to stand for economic progress.

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