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Populism is a political term describing a political agenda which aims to favor the average person over the elite. The term can be either negative or positive based on the context. The Populist Party in the U.S. in the 1890s was a coalition of leftist farmers and workers. In the late 20th century Ronald Reagan and other conservatives adopted populist themes, attacking elites, such as federal judges and the national media, as too elitist and too distant from the people, and calling for more power to the people.

New conservative parties in formed Europe in the late 20th century are adopting a populist style, often criticizing mass immigration.[1]

Since 1900 famous populist leaders in the U.S. included Huey Long campaigning from the left in the 1930s, George Wallace (combining both left and right elements) in the 1968 presidential election, and Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump from the right in the 1980 and 2016 presidential elections, respectively.

Conservative populism has often been attacked by liberals as "radical right", falsely implying that it is somehow beyond the bounds of legitimate debate.


  • Kazin, Michael. The Populist Persuasion: An American History (1995), 380pp, the standard history, by a liberal historian


  1. Hans-George Betz, "The New Politics of Resentment: Radical Right-Wing Populist Parties in Western Europe ", Comparative Politics, Vol. 25, No. 4 (Jul., 1993), pp. 413-427 in JSTOR Abstract

See also

Populist Party