SHARP: What is Populism & Why Do The Left and Right Both Fear It?

by | Jun 25, 2024 | Opinion

Populism has been the buzz word in 2024’s Presidential election. The majority of America First voters understand it and embrace it for what it is. In stark contrast, the left blatantly rigged their own 2016 primary to crush populism in its tracks. Let’s take a closer look at populism and what it means.

Even within academic circles, defining populism has proven challenging. This challenge arises from its varied manifestations across different historical periods. While contemporary instances primarily feature right-wing parties, leaders, and movements, populism has also found expression within left-wing contexts.

Academic discourse is divided on how best to classify populism: is it an ideology, a manner of presentation, a form of discourse, or a strategic approach? Despite these differing perspectives, scholars generally concur on populism having two fundamental principles:

  1. it must claim to speak on behalf of ordinary people
  2. these ordinary people must stand in opposition to an elite establishment which stops them from fulfilling their political preferences.

Webster’s dictionary defines it this way:

Regardless of who speaks about populism, everyone agrees that populism is about returning government back to ordinary and the people that the government represents.  

Populism wasn’t a commonly discussed topic until the presidential election of 2016.  Donald Trump won the Republican primary, while the Democratic primary was openly stolen from Vermont senator Bernie Sanders.  Since 2016 Populism has been a major topic of conversation in American politics and politics around the world. Donald Trump’s continued domination of the Republican Party has shown that the American right embraces populism, while the candidacy of Hillary Clinton and later, Joe Biden has proven that populism is openly rejected by the American left.  

Not everyone on the right has embraced populism. In fact, many of Trump’s detractors openly view it as a curse. In a Fox news interview Mike Pence openly criticized populism.

In addition to Mike Pence, many supporters of current Florida Governor and failed presidential candidate Ron DeSantis have openly stated that they “are conservatives not populists”. 

Populism is not a new thing in American politics, in fact Andrew Jackson is often referred to as the First Western Populist. Populism is not merely a phenomenon in American politics.  In fact there is a shift taking place globally toward populist candidates.  

Brazil’s Bolsonaro an Argentina’s Milei are two people show direct evidence of populism’s rise. Britain’s Brexit movement is also a visible sign of a populist revolution in Europe. Populism has found a much more stable footing in right wing politics vs. left wing politics.  Donna Brazile who was placed as the interim DNC chair during the 2016 primary openly stated that the primary was actually rigged against Bernie Sanders before later recanting

Bernie Sanders had a platform filled with far-left socialism, however he was the choice of liberal voters. Hillary Clinton had other plans & refused to allow the choice of the people to receive the Democrat nomination and asserted full control over the DNC guaranteeing herself the nomination.  

RELATED: Has the “Live and Let Live” Mentality Hurt the Libertarian Movement?

There hasn’t been a whimper of populism in the DNC since. The RNC attempted to push back against populism with establishment candidates like Ron DeSantis & Nikki Haley, however Donald Trump had already won the majority of right-wing voters with his message of working for the forgotten man.   

Despite their record setting loss in the Iowa Caucus, many DeSantis supporters still regularly take to social media to attack populism and boast that Ron DeSantis was the conservative choice and America messed up. Some have even taken their virtue signaling to the level of refusing to vote for Donald Trump. 

Ideally populism would be represented by both parties and right-wing and left wing ideas and policy could be debated with transparency.  That is not the current reality in America, as both the left & woke right appear ready, willing and able to defend the system that they have become comfortable with passionately.

Failing to embrace populism while virtue signaling “conservative values” will only lead to the further decline of America. In the current system we have fundraising contests rather than elections. Populism gives us a chance to break free of that financial matrix and elect the best candidates possible regardless of political ideology.

For America to succeed, the establishment stranglehold on politics must be broken in both parties. Until it is, the DC establishment uniparty will reign supreme. 

Follow Tim Sharp on X at @realtimsharp.

NEXT: Showdown in a Studio: The Biden/Trump Debate

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