Entry in progress—B.P.
Populist may refer to:
. A supporter of Populism, a political philosophy urging social and political system change that favours “the people” over “the elites”, or favours the common people over the rich and wealthy business owners. Populists are against big business owners.
. Populist Party of America, a party founded in 2002 advocating “constitutional democracy”
. Populist Party (United States), (actually the People’s Party) a major political party in the United States in the late 19th century
. The Progressive Populist, a newspaper founded in 1995 attempting to organize “a populist movement with progressive values”
Populism, defined either as an ideology, a political philosophy or a mere type of discourse, is a type of political-social thought which juxtaposes “the people” with “the elites”, urging social and political system changes and/or a rhetorical style deployed by members of political or social movements. It is defined by the Cambridge dictionary as “political ideas and activities that are intended to represent ordinary people’s needs and wishes.”
Academic and scholarly definitions of populism widely vary and, among both journalists and scholars, the term is often employed in loose, inconsistent and undefined ways to denote appeals to ‘the people’, ‘demagogy’ and ‘catch-all’ politics or as a receptacle for new types of parties whose classification observers are unsure of. Another factor held to diminish the value of ‘populism’ in some societies is that, as Margaret Canovan notes in her 1981 study Populism, unlike labels such as ‘conservative’ or ‘socialist’, the meanings of which have been ‘chiefly dictated by their adherents’, contemporary populists rarely call themselves ‘populists’ and usually reject the term when it is applied to them by others. Some exceptions to this pattern of pejorative usage exist, notably in the United States, but it appears likely that this is due to the memories and traditions of earlier democratic movements (e.g. farmers’ movements, New Deal reform movements, and the civil rights movement) that were often called (and called themselves) populist. It may also be due to linguistic confusions of populism with terms such as “popular.”
Due to the attention on populism in the academic world, scholars have made advances in defining the term in ways which can be profitably employed in research and help to distinguish between movements which are populist and those which simply borrow from populism. One of the latest of these is the definition by Daniele Albertazzi and Duncan McDonnell who, in their volume Twenty-First Century Populism, define populism as “an ideology which pits a virtuous and homogeneous people against a set of elites and dangerous ‘others’ who are together depicted as depriving (or attempting to deprive) the sovereign people of their rights, values, prosperity, identity and voice.” Rather than viewing populism in terms of specific social bases, economic programs, issues or electorates, as discussions of right-wing populism have tended to do, this conception of populism belongs to the tradition of scholars such as Ernesto Laclau, Pierre-Andre Taguieff, Yves Meny and Yves Surel who have all sought to focus on populism per se, rather than simply as an appendage of other ideologies (such as nationalism, neo-liberalism etc.). In fact, given its central tenet that democracy should reflect the pure and undiluted will of the people, populism can sit easily with ideologies of both Right and Left. Indeed, while leaders of populist movements in recent decades have claimed to be on both the left and the right of the political spectrum, many populists claim to be neither “left wing,” nor “centrist” nor “right wing.”
Wikipedia: Populist Party (United States)
The People’s Party, also known as the Populist Party (derived from “Populist” which is the adjective which describes the member of this party) was a short-lived political party in the United States in the late 19th century. It flourished particularly among western farmers, based largely on its opposition to the gold standard. The party did not remain a lasting feature most probably because it had been so closely identified with the free silver movement which did not resonate with urban voters and ceased to become a major issue as the U.S came out of the recession of the 1890s. The very term “populist” has since become a generic term in the U.S. for politics which appeals to the common in opposition to established interests.
At least three distinct American parties have used the term populist in their names since 1923.
The U.S. presidential election of 1892A People’s Party grew out of agrarian unrest in response to falling agricultural prices in the South and the trans-Mississippi West. Another factor was railroad rates. The Farmers’ Alliance, formed in Lampasas, TX in 1876, promoted collective economic action by farmers and achieved widespread popularity in the South and Great Plains. The Farmers’ Alliance ultimately did not achieve its wider economic goals of collective economic action against brokers, railroads, and merchants, and many in the movement agitated for changes in national policy. By the late 1880s, the Alliance had developed a political agenda that called for regulation and reform in national politics, most notably an opposition to the gold standard to counter the high deflation in agricultural prices in relation to other goods such as farm implements.
In December 1888 the National Agricultural Wheel and the Southern Farmer’s Alliance met at Meridian, Mississippi. In that meeting they decided to consolidate the two parties pending ratification. This consolidation gave the organization a new name, the Farmers and Laborers’ Union of America, and by 1889 the merger had been ratified, although there were conflicts between “conservative” Alliance men and “political” Wheelers in Texas and Arkansas, which delayed the unification in these states until 1890 and 1891 respectively. The merger eventually united white Southern Alliance and Wheel members, but it would not include African American members of agricultural organizations.
During their move towards consolidation in 1889, the leaders of both Southern Farmers’ Alliance and the Agricultural Wheel organizations contacted Terence V. Powderly, leader of the Knights of Labor. “This contact between leaders of the farmers’ movement and Powderly helped paved the way for a series of reform conferences held between December 1889 and July 1892 that resulted in the formation of the national People’s (or Populist) Party.”
The drive to create a new political party out of the movement arose from the refusal of both Democrats and Republicans to take up and promote the policies advocated by the Alliance, notably in regard to the Populists’ call for unlimited coinage of silver. The movement reached its peak in 1892 when the party held a convention chaired by Frances Willard (leader of the WCTU and a friend of Powderly’s) in Omaha, Nebraska and nominated candidates for the national election.
The party’s platform, commonly known as the Omaha Platform, called for the abolition of national banks, a graduated income tax, direct election of Senators, civil service reform, a working day of eight hours and Government control of all railroads, telegraphs, and telephones. In the 1892 Presidential election, James B. Weaver received 1,027,329 votes. Weaver carried four states (Colorado, Kansas, Idaho, and Nevada) and received electoral votes from Oregon and North Dakota as well.
People’s Party convention held at Columbus, Nebraska, July 15, 1890.The party flourished most among farmers in the Southwest and Great Plains, as well as making significant gains in the South, where they faced an uphill battle given the firmly entrenched monopoly of the Democratic Party. Success was often obtained through electoral fusion, with the Democrats outside the South, but with alliances with the Republicans in Southern states like Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. For example, in the elections of 1894, a coalition of Populists and Republicans led by Populist Marion Butler swept state and local offices in North Carolina, and the coalition would go on to elect Republican Daniel Lindsay Russell as Governor in 1896.
Opposition to the gold standard was especially strong among western farmers, who viewed the inherent scarcity of gold (and its slow movement through the banking system) as an instrument of Eastern banking interests who could force mass bankruptcies among farmers in the west by instigating “credit crunches”. Many western farmers rallied around the Populist banner in the belief that greenbacks not backed by a hard mineral standard would allow credit to flow more freely through rural regions. Free silver platform received widespread support across class lines in the Mountain states, where the economy heavily depended on silver mining.
The Populists were the first political party in the United States to actively include women in their affairs. At a time when cultural attitudes of white supremacy were permeating all aspects of American life, a number of southern Populists, including Thomas E. Watson, openly talked of the need for poor blacks and poor whites to set aside their racial differences in the name of shared economic self-interest. Regardless of these rhetoric appeals, however, racism did not evade the People’s Party. Prominent Populist Party leaders such as Marion Butler, a United States Senator from North Carolina, at least partially demonstrated a dedication to the cause of white supremacy, and there appears to have been some support for this viewpoint among the rank-and-file of the party’s membership. After the party’s disintegration, in fact, Watson himself became an outspoken white supremacist.
Presidential election of 1896
By 1896, the Democratic Party took up many of the People’s Party’s causes at the national level, and the party began to fade from national prominence. In that year’s presidential election, the Populists nominated Democratic candidate William Jennings Bryan; he backed the Populist opposition to the gold standard in his famous “Cross of Gold” speech. The Populists could not bring themselves to also nominate Bryan’s conservative eastern running mate, Arthur Sewall, and nominated Thomas E. Watson for vice president instead, though Watson had previously expressed some opposition to fusion with the Democrats. Watson was cautiously open to cooperation, but after the election would recant any hope he had in the possibility of cooperation as a viable tool The 1896 convention was the Coliseum of the St. Louis Exposition and Music Hall which in the same month hosted the 1896 Republican National Convention. Bryan lost to William McKinley by a margin of 600,000 votes.
The effects of fusion with the Democrats were disastrous to the Party in the South. Collaboration with the white supremacist Democratic establishment effectively ended the Populist/Republican alliance which had governed North Carolina in part with the support of African Americans. By 1898, the Democrats used a violently racist and violent campaign to defeat the North Carolina Populists and GOP and in 1900 the Democrats ushered in disfranchisement.
Populism never recovered from the failure of 1896. For example, Tennessee’s Populist Party was demoralized by a diminishing membership, and puzzled and split by the dilemma of whether to fight the state-level enemy (the Democrats) or the national foe (the Republicans and Wall Street). By 1900 the People’s Party of Tennessee was a shadow of what it once was.
In 1900, while many Populist voters supported Bryan again, the weakened party nominated a ticket of Wharton Barker and Ignatius L. Donnelly, and disbanded afterwards. Many Populist leaders became involved in the burgeoning Progressive Movement.
In 1904, the party was re-organized, and Thomas E. Watson was their nominee for president in 1904 and in 1908, after which the party disbanded again.
Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary
Main Entry: 1pop·u·list
Etymology: Latin populus the people
1 : a member of a political party claiming to represent the common people; especially often capitalized : a member of a United States political party formed in 1891 primarily to represent agrarian interests and to advocate the free coinage of silver and government control of monopolies
2 : a believer in the rights, wisdom, or virtues of the common people
— pop·u·lism \-ˌli-zəm\ noun
— pop·u·lis·tic \ˌpä-pyə-ˈlis-tik\ adjective
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