Rick Kennerly rick at MOUSEHERDER.COM
Tue May 7 00:21:12 UTC 2002

:In the USA "populist" means "pandering to simplistic views in the

I take a more generous view of populist rhetoric.  It is generally the
appeal, often during hard times, of the outsider candidate.

A quick Google scan for populist and--pick your politician--finds these
politically diverse American candidates being referred to as populist:

Newt Gingrich - Contract with America
Bill Clinton - I feel your pain
Jim Hightower - the consummate political outsider
Teddy Roosevelt  - during his Trust Busting and Bull Moose Party days
Jesse Ventura - return government to the people
Ralph Nader - making corporate America more responsible for defective
FDR - the New Deal
Ronald Reagan - get government off the backs of the people
William Jennings Bryan - Crown of Thorns

A brief survey of populists movements shows certain defining themes:

Government's out of touch with the will of the people

The proper focus of any political system should be on the common man in the
street, not business or government (Kansas and Oklahoma probably have the
most populist state constitutions in the union, going so far as to enshrine
the maximum price of a gallon of kerosene stove fuel in their founding

government is captured by business and xxx special interest group

A nostalgic longing for times past (early populists were reacting to the
industrial revolution)

in the struggle between the belief in a natural aristocracy (gifted leaders
springing up naturally to run the government) and a natural democracy (while
an individual man may be mistaken, the great body of mankind is like a hive
of bees, wise and capable beyond the sum of it's parts), you can imagine
where the populists come down.

at times, strongly anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic (the
second rising of the KKK in Kokomo, Indiana, had strong populist ties which
made poor Irish, Swedes, Italians, Germans and other new arrivals flooding
the Midwest the main target)

Given these tendencies, I'd say Le Pen fits quite nicely into populist
traditions.  The error is tagging populism as right wing.


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