Jonah, well put about Edwards’s populism. His populism, and that of some others on the left today, is of a strange sort, though. It’s economic populism without cultural populism. Populism for most of American history has tended to be very culturally conservative, and indeed the poor (or “the common folks” to whom populism is generally directed) have tended to be cultural conservatives. I don’t think that has actually changed much, but the populism of the populist Democrats today (which isn’t all Democrats, to be sure) is not really directed at the poor, but precisely at the elites, since the views and attitudes Edwards has come to express tend to be those of educated wealthy professionals who are cultural liberals and are well off. People with Edwards signs in their yards seem to have pretty big yards.
There are exceptions to this on the left. Jim Webb, for instance, is a cultural as well as an economic populist (though whether he’s on the left is a matter of dispute). But for the most part, economic populism on the left seems almost itself to be an expression of cultural elitism.