Here’s a question for y’all… how would you define populism? I think for years I’ve just had a vague sort of idea…

Here’s a question for y’all… how would you define populism? I think for years I’ve just had a vague sort of idea about it, but not a well-defined one. I was reading this article <>, which led to this <> and this (admittedly general) criteria for it:

The measure of populist views primarily focuses on anti-establishment attitudes – whether respondents believe that ordinary people would do a better job than elected officials at solving the country’s problems, and whether most elected officials care what people like them think. Anti-establishment attitudes constitute a core component of many definitions of populism.

I think because I have generally heard of it (in this country) in the same breath as progressive (an equally ill-defined position, IMO) I tend to think of it as a leftist sort of thing. Also, with lots of caveats because party positions in Europe are quite different than in the US with our (establishment) “left” being considered rather “right” in Europe, so many of the rightwing populist parties listed may well be considered leftist here.

ANYWAY… my actual question/item for discussion is… what do you consider to be populist? And what would you define as a left-populist versus right-populist position. And if you’re not from the U.S. please feel free to dive in anyway (maybe mention where you’re from, to lend context)!

I mean by this definition, I suppose Bundy and his ilk, survivalists, etc, would be on the right end of the populist spectrum (tho I have a hard time thinking of them as populist) and for the left end of the spectrum…I suppose some of the democratic socialist parties? Hmmm…Teddy Roosevelt seems to me to be frequently described as progressive and populist, for example.

Does populist necessarily mean anti-establishment? Because to me, efforts to replace corrupt, wealthy politicians with regular people counts as populist but is not necessarily anti-establishment (since it’s not trying to tear down the structure).

Western Europe: People Favor Political Parties Based on Ideological Beliefs

Ideology remains a powerful factor in how Europeans view key policy questions In Western Europe, populist parties and movements have disrupted the region’s political landscape by making significant gains at the ballot box – from the Brexit referendum to national elections in Italy.

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6 Responses to Here’s a question for y’all… how would you define populism? I think for years I’ve just had a vague sort of idea…

  1. John Wehrle says:

    To me, populism has no particular political idealogy but instead has two parts, a deep distrust of political expertise along with political content made up of whatever happens to be popular at a given moment.

    Personally I’ve seen it from the Right more often than the Left but that’s probably because of geography. I used to see local Republican candidate billboards in the Mojave Desert that claimed the candidate wasn’t a politician. (This always amused me. Of course he’s a politician. He’s running for political office.) And this sentiment can have any principle whatsoever grafted into it.

    I think that’s why the defining feature of populism is the sense that ordinary people with no expertise will do a better job as an elected official than someone with experience because experience is seen as nothing but corruption.

  2. Paul Gatling says:

    Subscribing as I don’t have an educated opinion on the topic.

  3. Cindy Brown says:

    Yeah, I think it’s worth exploring because it occurs to me most of us have only a vague idea of what this is, and it’s increasingly clear that more of us should know about these things.

  4. John Wehrle says:

    Cindy Brown one of the themes of the 2016 election cycle that alarmed me was the widespread assumption that governing requires nothing but what the voter perceives as integrity.

    People don’t generally feel that way about their doctors or teachers or their own professions. And yet there is this presumption that as long as a person’s heart is in the right place they’ll be successful at governing. I remember arguing that maybe we should view our vote for elected office the same way we might decide whether to hire someone. That suggestion was met with stony silence. It didn’t feel right, I guess. It wasn’t sexy.

    Of course, that worry was soon overshadowed by more pressing concerns.

  5. I’m coming to consider it a synonym for demagoguery.