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Rather than complaining about populist successes, established political parties should take a page from the populist playbook.The time when politicians could rely on party machines, focus groups and traditional polling is over. The complacent assumption that people will always vote along party or class lines is obsolete. After a decade of economic malaise, voters are skeptical of mainstream politicians who offer rote promises of growth and improved standards of living. In the United States, 56 percent of households report declining household incomes. At the same time, the twin threats of automation and outsourcing have made employment more precarious, and sapped workers' bargaining power.Rather, the worsening plight of workers is due to lost bargaining power and union density, welfare-state retrenchment, offshoring, and the growth of the financial sector as a share of the economy.As always, establishment politicians are campaigning on promises of fiscal prudence and economic growth, neither of which resonates with the 50 million Brazilians – nearly a quarter of the population – living below the poverty line, on household incomes that average $387.07 per month.Knowing what matters to your voters is basic electoral politics.The third lesson from the populist playbook is to be bold.After 30 years of pragmatism and incremental change, it is time for a new tone.
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