The New Populist Reader

The New Populist Reader

The New Populist Reader

The New Populist Reader

Synopsis

The editor of this work argues that the contemporary American political scene is increasingly driven by populist demands. This is the only book on American Politics which outlines this trend. Using primary sources and analyses from government and the media, the book examines the many aspects from all points of the political spectrum, of populism. It is divided into three sections, covering economic, cultural, and governmental populism. Each section contains unique stories, told through informative reporting, reasoned analysis, and passionate oratory. Freed from the traditional ideological conceptions of American politics, this work allows the reader to understand the diverse nature of contemporary populism.

Excerpt

If you have bought this book for a political science class, you may be wondering what a "new" populist is. One cannot answer that inquiry without first understanding what populism is. At its most basic notion, populism is symbolized by political movements, sometimes represented by charismatic individuals, interest groups, political parties, and politicians. They claim that there is illegitimate power operating against the American political creed., and this power is exercised by self-serving, out-of-touch élites that apply it against the will of the majority of the people.

This definition presupposes that there is an American political creed that is easily understood and concisely defined. That is hardly the case. The American political creed is loose and ambiguous; it is defined by ideals that logically contradict each other if they are taken to the extreme. Individualism and egalitarianism and minority rights and majority rule are two examples. The Constitution was designed to keep these competing ideals in balance by separating power institutionally and by level of government.

Yet on another level our national political creed is simple and clear: Americans distrust power, particularly power that is visibly exercised. The origins of this skepticism date back to the political atmosphere of mid-eighteenth century colonial America. When the British began to overtly exercise their political sovereignty, a sentiment began to develop that the British power, although legal, was somehow illegitimate.

Populism is expressed uniquely in different historical eras. Sometimes populist energy is directed at economic forces. At other times populists criticize cultural trends. Governmental power can also be the aim of populist reforms. Because populism manifests itself through different discourses, it is awkward to . . .

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