Populism

Populism is an unusual political term in that its meanings vary widely, both for those who claim the label and those who use it as a term of derision. It is rooted in the republican notion that all legitimate political authority is grounded in the people as such. Yet populism has never meant the same thing as popular sovereignty. It describes not a type of regime, but an active demand for political power. To those who claim it as a political identity, it is meant to describe a struggle for majoritarian rule against threats from above, below, or within. To those for whom it is a term of derision, populism describes an antiliberal desire for mob or authoritarian rule.

The term was first used by reporters and by members of the U.S. People’s Party in the late nineteenth century to denote its claim to speak and act in the name …

This essay may be found on page 192 of the printed volume.

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