Google the word “populism”. You end up with panic: a huge political alien bearing nice promises, threatens to demolish our economic status quo.
As a movement of people standing up during the economic that hit hard on the poor and the needy, the “Populist Party” was formed in the 1890s. The People’s Party Platform, adopted in 1982, was a powerful declaration for measures of support to the weak, a roadmap for a socially equitable way out of the economic crisis.
|Dr. Thompson's great speech : a large and representative gathering of Populists of Sampson and adjoining counties at Clinton, N.C., Aug. 19, 1898, to hear the opening of the Populist campaign (https://archive.org/details/drthompsonsgreat00thom)|
The Populist Party called for democratic and powerful control over the banking system, a gradual income tax, policies for public transport which would not allow the exclusion of the poorest, state control over the national postal service.
The Populist Movement called for more reforms, primarily in the area of economic policies.In its short story, the Populist Party went through many waves and finally joined the Democrats, eventually fading out. All this is now written history.
Today, populism is everywhere, in words. It hangs from the teeth of almost every politician, right or left-wing, like disgusting rotten food. As if it were synonym to the really great threats of demagoguery, hate politics and big lies.
Using the word “people” in a politically derogatory manner can only show its opposite: elitism. Even worse: it shows political poverty, in dire times filled with deep and unresolved crises.
|Newspaper cartoon (November 1894)|
In a democracy, it is politically non-sensical to renounce and mock the people. You can fear the people, especially when you fail to produce solutions to the most pressing social problems. Equating the people with an illiterate mass which cannot discern its own interest and must look up for salvation to some enlightened elite can only distance politicians from their electorate. In a democracy, the challenge for those parts of the political scene whose genuine concern is indeed the common good should be to reclaim populism, talk about the true good of society and the people and, at last, take action for it.