What do all these people have in common?
They’ve all been called populists.
But is that an insult or a compliment?
And is it even accurate?
It’s hard to tell.
The term is defined
as a member of a political party claiming to represent the common people.
but populism isn’t as easy to understand as some other isms.
To answer that,
we need to go back to the origin of the term,
late in the 19th century.
The decades following the Civil War
were a time of massive growth in America.
From 1860 to 1890,
the American population nearly doubled.
Production of steel and coal exploded,
all while the US Army battled Native Americans
in a bid to carve out more and more land for railroads and farmers
as the country expanded ever westward.
With over 62 million American mouths to feed,
farming looked like a lucrative field.
Technological advancement made it even easier to grow and harvest crops,
if you could afford to invest in the technology.
But many farmers couldn’t, not on their own.
So they took out hefty loans from eastern banks,
believing that the high demand for food
would allow them to pay off their debt in a short time.
But then crop prices fell and drought hit,
and the privately-owned railroad monopolies drove up transportation costs.
Many farmers soon went bankrupt.
The federal government did little to help,
refusing to break up the monopolies
and offering little to ease the suffering.
So farmers took matters into their own hands,
banding together to advocate for themselves.
In May 1891,
one such farmers’ alliance in Kansas
coined the phrase”populist”,
meaning of the people,
to describe their movement.
Within a year, the People’s Party,
also known as the Populist Party, had been formed.
It was born out of an unlikely alliance between farmers, union leaders,
and workers’ organizations, like the Knights of Labor.
和工人组织 组成的不可思议的联盟 就像劳动骑士团
Their collective target was the moneyed elite of the East.
Populist orator Mary Ellen Lease famously stated
that America had become a government of Wall Street,
by Wall Street, and for Wall Street.
and the Populist Party agitated for massive reform.
The populists called for the recognition of labor unions,
regulation of the railroad industry,
the direct election of senators,
a progressive income tax,
an eight-hour work day, and more.
These were considered radical ideas at the time.
Through their collective action,
the party gained power and a foothold on the national stage.
they nominated James B. Weaver for president,
who received 8% of the vote and captured five states.
Two years later,
the party sent eight members to Congress
and captured hundreds of state legislature seats.
But there were divisive factions within.
Nativists and racists blamed Jewish immigrants
and Chinese railroad workers for their woes.
Some populist groups welcomed black farmers in the South,
but others refused them as the Jim Crow era took hold.
While the movement began outside the two-party system,
by 1896 the Populist Party had become aligned with the Democratic Party.
They nominated William Jennings Bryan for president,
an influential populist politician.
This too ostracized many black populists,
who felt a loyalty to the Republicans, the party of Lincoln.
The Populist Party waned,
but its founding ideals would persevere.
Louisiana governor and Senator Huey Long
led a left-wing populist movement that
addressed Americans’ real fears during the depths
of the Great Depression.
He demanded a radical redistribution of wealth
from the country’s richest citizens to its poorest.
His plan, known as Share Our Wealth,
would have capped personal income at $50 million in today’s money.
He considered a run for president in 1936,
but was assassinated.
His ideas, however, did not die and
helped push the already liberal New Deal policies of FDR even further left.
In the 1950s, America saw one of its first
right-wing manifestations of populism
under Senator Joseph McCarthy.
McCarthy claimed communists had infiltrated positions of power
in the government and military with the help of
the East Coast liberal intelligentsia.
Attacking the liberal elites echoed
the outcries of the original populist movement,
but for very different reasons.
In the 1960s, Alabama governor George Wallace
made a name for himself as a staunch segregationist.
He used populist rhetoric to capitalize
on mostly white middle class resentment of
the sweeping social changes of the decade.
The low and middle income group in this country haven’t had any representation,
and the pseudo-intellectuals have taken over the party in the Democratic Party.
His followers attacked the government, Vietnam War protesters,
the media, liberals, and the elite.
Populist ideas and rhetoric continued into the modern day.
Barack Obama, responding to the unsustainable cost of health care,
campaigned on universal coverage as a candidate in the 2008 election
and pushed through the Affordable Care Act as president.
The legislation covered many more Americans than before,
but left the private health care industry intact.
It was still attacked as radical.
No more petitions!
Fight the politicians!
Fight the politicians!
In the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries,
Bernie Sanders tapped into a very real anger at
both Wall Street and the government over the 2008 financial crisis,
the subsequent great recession, and a recovery
that had left many Americans behind.
As a result of their greed and illegal behavior,
they drove this economy into the worst
economic downturn since The Great Depression.
His proposed economic policies,
like a progressive estate tax,
doubling the minimum wage,
and improving paid family and medical leave,
paralleled those of the populist farmers of the 1890s.
It’s going to be so beautiful, and you’re going to pay far less money.
Donald Trump, while running for president in 2016,
also made a populist appeal to the economic and social insecurity of many Americans,
portraying his political opponents and the media as the elite
and employing a nativist tone similar to the more
divisive factions of the late 19th century populist movement.
Throughout American history,
populism has been celebrated, condemned, and appropriated across the political spectrum.
There is no easy definition,
but the one thing all populist movements seem to have in common
is an appeal to the people, and their fears, anxieties,
即号召群众 鼓动群众的恐惧 焦虑
and dreams of a better world.
What do all these people have in common?