The Roots of Conservative Populism

By Bresler, Robert J. | USA TODAY, May 1996 | Go to article overview

The Roots of Conservative Populism


Bresler, Robert J., USA TODAY


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

THE BUCHANAN INSURGENCY will not disappear soon. Pat Buchanan has tapped a source of anger, alienation, and anxiety boiling beneath the surface of American politics. He dubs himself a populist, a concept that embodies an attitude more than an ideology. Populist figures such as William Jennings Bryan, Huey Long, Joe McCarthy, George Wallace, Ross Perot, and Pat Buchanan can not be categorized easily. They all, however, invoked the virtues of the common folk and the corruption of the elites.

Many populist causes are based upon genuine grievances, yet populism has a dark side. It oversimplifies the political dialogue and often takes refuge in a search for scapegoats. The list has varied over time--evil bankers, greedy railroaders, arrogant bureaucrats, undesirable immigrants, corrupt corporate executives, militant civil rights leaders, and the decadent media.

Populists speak to the unarticulated frustrations of ordinary citizens beset by economic and cultural changes beyond their control or comprehension. In times of profound change and uncertainty, such explosions can tear a democratic society to shreds. Witness Adolf Hitler and the Weimar Republic, and many shiver to think who will emerge from the stormy politics of contemporary Russia.

American has been fortunate. Reassuring leaders, effective programs, and intervening events eventually have quieted the voices of flame-throwing populists. The Democratic Party absorbed the Populist Party in the 1890s, and both Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson translated many of their concerns into programs. In the 1930s and 1940s, the promise of the New Deal, the leadership of Pres. Franklin Roosevelt, and the economic prosperity of the war years smothered the demagogic appeals of Father Charles Coughlin, while Long's movement ended with his assassination.

The early years of the Cold War gave us the first conservative populist--Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy (R.-Wisc.). Like Long and Father Coughlin, McCarthy found support among the white working class. Even young Sen. John F. Kennedy (D.-Mass.) refrained from attacking McCarthy for fear of antagonizing many of his Irish-Catholic supporters. Eventually, the end of the Korean War, the prosperity of the 1950s, the reassuring leadership of Pres. Dwight Eisenhower, and McCarthy's own reckless behavior muted the senator's appeal and, for a time, the populist anger he had aroused.

It erupted again in the 1960s when civil rights leaders, anti-war students, and their supporters in Washington replaced communist subversives as the chief villains. This anger found its champion in Alabama Gov. George Wallace, who attacked black leaders, excoriated anti-war liberals, and ridiculed "pointy-headed bureaucrats." As with McCarthy, Wallace gave populism a cultural edge. Wallace's showing in the 1968 presidential election (13% of the popular vote) should have been a fire bell in the night for the political establishment of the Democratic Party and a clear warning that they were losing their grip on the allegiance of the white working class. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Roots of Conservative Populism
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.