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For many years, the term “populist” was something of a political insult. Populists were regarded as suspicious of political elites, angered by economic injustices (imagined and real), and often given to intense prejudice and xenophobia (fear of foreigners). During the Great Recession, populism propelled support for the TEA Party and the Occupy Wall Street movements, remaking politics on the right and left.
The election of 2016 proved populism to be a potent and durable force in American politics. Republican candidate-turned-President Donald Trump ran a raucous populist campaign that attacked Washington elites, stoked anti-immigrant sentiment, and spoke about returning the “forgotten American” back to power. Although Bernie Sanders lost the Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton, his belief in Democratic Socialism left a significant populist imprint on the Democratic Party, which loudly denounced the role of big business in furthering wealth inequality. Populism has remained a potent force through the 2020 election cycle.
“Populism,” as we’ve seen in this unit, is also a historical term referring specifically to the People’s (Populist) Party, a farmer-dominated political movement of the 1890s that tried to push back against the Gilded Age status quo. In this primary source exercise, you will compare the Populist Party Platform of 1892 to the 2016 and 2020 platform preambles, or introductory statements, of the Democratic and Republican Parties. (see attached files)
Here’s the website for The Populist Party Platform of 1892. https://www.americanyawp.com/reader/16-capital-and-labor/the-omaha-platform-of-the-peoples-party-1892/
and see attached files for preamble of 2016,2020.
In this primary source exercise, we will practice making connections across different time periods while sharpening our skills in crafting an argument and presenting evidence. After reading through the above party platforms, past and present, please respond to the following question:
Which modern political party is closer to the Populists of the 1890s in outlook, the present-day Democratic Party or Republican Party? Why?
Explain your answer to the above question in a short 200-300 word response that makes a clear argument connecting the 1892 Populist Party platform to both the 2016/2020 Republican and Democratic Party platforms.
To receive full credit, please include at least one directly quoted or paraphrased piece of evidence from each party’s political platform. Please see the following guide on the difference between paraphrasing and quoting sources: