The Challenge of Populism: The Rise of Right-Wing Democratism in Postwar America

The Challenge of Populism: The Rise of Right-Wing Democratism in Postwar America

The Challenge of Populism: The Rise of Right-Wing Democratism in Postwar America

The Challenge of Populism: The Rise of Right-Wing Democratism in Postwar America

Synopsis

A qualitative analysis of America's trend toward direct democracy, this book places today's populist movements in their historical context. Throughout this work, Federici reflects on the meaning of democracy by examining strains of populism and how they relate to America's Constitutional tradition. He concludes that recent right-wing populism in the economic, religious, and foreign policy arenas poses a serious threat to the Constitutional tradition. This book offers insights for journalists and scholars of American history, social movements, sociology and democracy.

Excerpt

Political scientists have been paying increasing attention to a trend in American politics that can be described as a movement toward direct democracy or a reemergence of populism. Scholars have produced studies analyzing the political devices of direct democracy: referendum, initiative, and recall. It is clear from this research that, at least as far as referendum, initiative, and recall are concerned, direct democracy is on the rise. Many of the recent studies present a quantitative analysis, documenting both the increasing use of ballot measures and the results of public opinion polls that aim to measure the level of support for these devices. These studies are valuable in helping to understand what institutional changes are taking place and how they affect voter participation. Yet the recent quantitative studies of the rise of direct democracy provide an incomplete analysis of this important trend in American politics. Most of them fail to address the cultural and philosophical origins of direct democracy while concentrating on its institutional development. Some studies include a limited discussion of the historical roots of direct democracy, but these tend to concentrate primarily on institutions and not ideas or theory.

The failure of recent studies to address the more philosophical and theoretical aspects of direct democracy has contributed to confusion concerning the causes of the trend toward populism in American politics. In addition, some scholars have welcomed the trend without recognizing the potential danger to the constitutional tradition. This is due in part to confusion regarding both the current state of culture in America and the . . .

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