Use this forum to suggest Good Words for Professor Beard.
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Postby mathew.barley » Mon Jul 09, 2012 9:29 pm

"Populism" can refer to politics associated with identifying the less well off and uncorrupted masses as a group distinct from the wealthy elite, and policy designed to be "popul-ar" with this larger part of the "popul-ation".

It can also refer more broadly to politics that identifies as desirable any sub-group amongst a population and pits them as the enemy of some undesirable "other", promoting division in a community for political gain.

Does the word have a long history ? In what sense was it first used ? Is one of these meanings more correct than the other ?

Perry Lassiter
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Postby Perry Lassiter » Mon Jul 09, 2012 9:57 pm

Welcome to the Agora. I think I may have posted something similar elsewhere in these pages. I had firmly fixed in my mind that populism referred to a type of liberalism that appealed to the lower classes by handouts. Then last year I heard a couple of the Tea Party Republican candidates also referred to as populists. What gives here? Apparently they were thinking of grass roots as opposed to the establishment. How have the rest of you used this or heard it used?

Philip Hudson
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Postby Philip Hudson » Tue Jul 10, 2012 12:58 am

William Jennings Bryan was the great populist. The trust-buster, Teddy Roosevelt was a populist. The present Tea Party is definitely not populist. The Grangers of the latter part of the 19th century seem to have been populists. It was big railroads versus small farmers back then. The prime requirement for being a populist is that one believes all big organizations are to be mistrusted, and that there should be checks and balances to keep big organizations from skewing, and screwing, society. In that sense, the US constitution, in dividing powers between legislative, executive and judicial is populist. My family has been populist in the traditional sense for at least four generations (from before the Civil War), although some have lately strayed. I am a populist.
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