Traditionally, populism has been reserved for the political leftists of the world. It's a technique that drives a "wedge" between the rich and poor of a country. Between the workers and the bosses. Between main street and Wall Street. Between business and the people. It's designed to appeal to the poor and average people of a country. That's why you hear a lot of populist messages coming out of Barack Obama and Joe Biden.
But, if you listen to John McCain and Sarah Palin, you'd think you were listening to two Democrats with some kind of populist "we'r agin 'em" message. With the credit market crisis, McCain/Palin keep vowing to go after Wall Street companies and corrupt CEO's. They promise regulation so another trillion dollar bailout doesn't ever have to happen again. Any deregulatory, free-market Republican is probably suffering a massive migraine from these two top candidates of their own Republican Party.
But, McCain is a politician who recognizes that government has a role in keeping both businesses and the workers in line to keep this country on an even keel. He knows that when business gets too strong, the people and the workers suffer. He also knows that when the workers are too strong, businesses and the people suffer. And, he knows that when government gets too strong, the people will again suffer. In any case, the people suffer.
John McCain likens himself to President Teddy Roosevelt ("TR") and that's where a lot of this kind of talk is coming from. Teddy Roosevelt, also a Republican, was big on interstate regulation of the railroad industry. He effectively created what is now known as the Food and Drug Administration to regulate meat and medicines in America. Most importantly, he was known as the "trust buster" who went after big corporations such as Standard Oil. He also acted as a mediator between the coal companies and the workers to avert a potentially disastrous strike in 1902 because it would hurt the average citizens of this country. Always putting Americans first. Doesn't that sound a lot like McCain's slogan of "Country First" ?
To me, John McCain is a person that is more interested in "righting wrongs" than being completely beholding to any party affiliation. He is a Republican because he is a conservative when it comes to government spending. In turn, he firmly believes in reducing the tax burden to the American taxpayers. He believes in a strong military for the protection of America and its citizens. I may be wrong, but I believe he thinks, like Roosevelt, that labor unions are fine as long as the overall or general public interest doesn't suffer. That's why he appears to be against unionized teachers structured environment that prevents an emphasis on science and math; and higher pay for those specialized types of teachers. He has bucked his own political party on immigration and on environmental issues. He apparently believes in the control of Global Warming. He is an environmentalist/conservationist without being extreme. That's why he believes in Nuclear Power and in responsible drilling for oil.
To me, McCain and Sarah Palin are populists when they feel that it is the right thing to do for America. They are Republicans on conservative issues that will best benefit this country and its citizens. And, too, they can be Democrats when they believe it will benefit this country. I think this is in stark contrast to Obama/Biden who have been pure party loyalists, never reaching across the aisle, throughout their political careers.
Just my opinion!