Populism has always bubbled beneath the surface of American politics. Periodically, it boils over, as in 1912 with Theodore Roosevelt’s Progressive Party, 1924 with Robert LaFollette, Sr., Huey Long’s “Share Our Wealth Movement” in 1934–35, and George Wallace, Pat Buchanan and Ross Perot in the late twentieth century. Populism, however, achieved its greatest prominence yet with the election of Donald Trump. And unlike previous periods in history, this movement — or at least widespread sentiment — could become a prominent and permanent fixture of the American political landscape.
The hallmark of today’s populism, as in the past, is the belief that powerful elites—big business, the media, Wall Street, Congress, Washington insiders and bureaucrats, and the rich—are exploiting and harming the common man through a rigged political and economic system.
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