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Is Populism Making a Comeback? What You Need to Know About Its History—And Its Future


Is Populism Making a Comeback? What You Need to Know About Its History—And Its Future

Fran Korten

You may have noticed. In our political discourse, suddenly the term “populism” is everywhere.

In April, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid joined 5,000 other political leaders in a call to make “big, bold, economic-populist ideas” the center of the 2016 presidential campaign. Outlets as disparate as The New York Times, The Nation, Time, and Fox News apply the label to politicians across the political spectrum.


Ted Cruz a populist? Is he aware that that makes him a socialist/communist/tree-hugging enemy of Wall Street? Hillary is just a very unconvincing cameleon.


“Even right-wing firebrand Ted Cruz gets the label…”

Anyone who believes that populism will ever come from the right is kindly invited to bid on the Golden Gate Bridge, which I’m auctioning off.


I guess someone already has bids on the Brooklyn Bridge…


Texas is certainly a place unto itself and quite ugly, really. Sen. Cruz fits right in ( Don’t believe the postcards or commercials on the Travel Channel. ) Cruz uses populist rhetoric but he’s a Dominionist, really. South Texas is full of religiously intensive fundy nonsense and is usually called " the land of the blind leading the blind. " But mostly they’re all phonies and opportunists; that’s both parties, btw. They hate Big Guvmint regulation simply because it drives up the cost of fraud and the fiduciary relationships needed to conduct honest enterprise. In Texas, of course, the noise is much louder because of Big Energy. The 99s would be well served if Texas seceded.


Oh, I forgot to add that most Texans who leave the state never return. Unless, of course, they’re accompanied by U.S. Marshals. The " populism " which coms out of places like S. Texas is the same kind that makes Duck Dynasty, ah, popular. And, yes, it is very odd that Sen. Cruz and Hillary are included in an article about " real populism " unless it is the religious component as both are big in The Prayer Breakfast and Bible Studies Group in the nation’s capital. See, they really are phonies.


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I, and many of my friends, have TVs which were built 20 years. They work fine for what I need them for, by the way. Yet, now, I am told that my phone which works perfectly fine, won’t be supported any more by the phone service providers. I have to buy a phone with tracking devices incased in a GPS program. The same is true if I buy a newer car, too. Back to buying a new TV which, I’m told, has a built-in camera which watches me when I watch it. What else does it do? Do you know? Finally, I live in the Silicon Forest and I can tell you that the people who design and build the computers you buy; don’t own or use computers. They won’t download any of their smartphone info onto automobile systems which have Bluetooth, etc. Again, what do they know that you don’t? That’s a part of history we need to think about before we attempt to toss it overboard and begin anew. I’d like a landline and an answering machine, please. Not a 24/7 tracking device furnished by a suspicious boss, either. A WalMart store manager told me that’s what her company phones does. They’re afraid she’ll be contacted by " union organizers " and what not. She laughed when she said that, but it was what is normally called, " nervous laughter. " No kidding. Ah, history, it’s so yesterday, isn’t it?


Populism succeeds when conservatives in the 99% realize what liberals were saying all along and take the credit for it.


When I was a young fellow, many long years ago, someone moved into our neighborhood in the “South End” of Seattle and joined our Community Club. I noticed her accent (drawl) and asked her where she came from.

  • She looked down at me and smiled, “Ah’m from Texas, as far from it as ah can get!”


This s a little light on the history, and some of the items actually come out of the union movements and the progressives, and one sad piece of the populaist movement is it later got pretty nativist and right wing


I think you’re wrong, there. I remember the last time that, “History is irrelevant! We’ll make our own decisions!” was the cry. I can remember that many, if not most, were the same mistakes that had already been tried before.

  • Most of the Founders of the United States of America were well grounded in history, and what had been tried and failed, or tried and succeeded. They created our Constitution to avoid the pitfalls they saw in history, and set up a land where the people could be free, and in charge. It wasn’t perfect, but it worked pretty well for over a century.
  • They, and many others warned repeatedly that to retain our Constitutional government and nation required constant vigilance, for the wealthy, the banks, the magnates would always be looking for ways to subvert or overthrow and control it.
  • When the idea of history became what was had for breakfast yesterday, we seem to have lost our caution, our need to reaffirm our Constitution and Bill of Rights for our own protection.
  • Sure enough, the banksters and other criminals quietly came in and bought the government for their own use.
  • Thomas Jefferson wrote, “The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first." We allowed those chains to rust and lose their strength and now the shattered links lie forgotten, just as most now have forgotten our Constitution and Bill of Rights.
  • He also wrote, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”
  • That old tree is looking pretty droopy. Perhaps it needs a good manuring.


“There is far too much tradition designed for idiots and far too little consideration and action.”

That line should be engraved on all US government buildings and folding currency.


Huey Long, the closest the US has ever come to an absolute dictator, was a populist.


True. And, Louisiana has been the shining beacon on a hill for the world concerning all manner of representative democracy, clean elections, ethical business practices and racial equality since his demise. It doesn’t even need a legal system based on British Common Law. I understand it prefers the original French.


Not to worry. With the left nothing is very organized and certainly not its’ populist or progressive sentiments ( urges ). The Left, what there is of it, is historically more into centralization of powers in the Federal System. But, that was then and this current political struggle is being defined as the ups versus the downs. And, that’s an accurate framing, imo. Certainly, the Tea Party is conflicted, dazed and confused, with their signs of Keep Your Hands Off My Medicare and Leave Social Security Alone. That’s the MSM’s fault, in conjunction with the corrupt and captured Federal System by financiers, corporations and the 1%. Fearmongering, War and Racism work very well as propaganda and sells lots of weapons, submarines, rockets, battleships, jets, nukes and guns, too. So it goes…


When I hear the word ‘populism,’ I think of Tom Watson ( not the golfer). To talk about populism and not discuss Tom Watson, seems ignorant of history or superficial at best, duplicitous at worst. The hard right turn in the movement that Watson led should not be overlooked. There are important lessons to be learned, especially around the issues of race. Knowing one’s history is one necessary step in preventing the failures from repeating themselves.


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Wow, I find myself in agreement with opposing ideas on this thread. Our institutions warp the telling of factual history through a frame which suppresses participation, dissent and oppresses the people; truth after all is perception. Goodwyn’s book, along with Zinn’s history and Hartmann’s “Unequal Decision” should be required reading in public schools. Instead we are taught a thoroughly and literally white-washed version of our founding through the present, which has a direct connection to the moment we find ourselves in now.

You can’t know where you are going if you don’t know where you’ve been. We are way past reform. We need new institutions to achieve greater democracy. This moment requires us all to think about the country we want to live in, and how we make this country that country. What would a democratic Constitution look like? And then organizing to make it happen.

The writer failed to mention that the Populist Party had a battle royal over supporting Williams Jennings Bryan. The party faithful feared the Democratic Party would co-opt them, which of course it did. We learn from that experience that when our moment comes–and it will only come if we organize–we must be prepared with our own candidates representing us in an independent political party. Whether or not it is the Greens is yet to be seen, so long as the party rises up from within the peoples’ movement.


What we should have learned by now is that a “Big Bold Populist Economic Idea” can never come to fruition in the “Faux Representative Democracy” that the U.S of A has allowed itself to become over the past 60 years.

New Data Offers First Infuriating Glimpse at How the Richest 0.001 Percent Pay Income Taxes - NationofChange

The implications of that article, and its accompanying charts should inform any seventh grader that all governmental power is currently in the hands of a very tiny,(1/1000th of the total voting population) minority group, an uber elite clan of oligarchs. How can there ever be “social justice” with that degree of “economic injustice”? The scales of justice can never be balanced under such conditions.