Populism: An Overview. Populism. A general definition: A political philosophy supporting the rights and power of the people in their struggle against the privileged elite.
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Populism • A general definition: A political philosophy supporting the rights and power of the people in their struggle against the privileged elite. • A more specific definition: A movement, primarily of farmers, in the late 1800s that demanded government aid for the common farmer and worker.
Organization is the Key to Change • In a Democracy, the “common” people supposedly have the power to use government to benefit their lives. However, this often does not happen due to low participation, lack of education, and disorganization. • Farmers in the late 1800s created organizations with social, economic, and political purposes.
The Road to the People’s Party • The Grange (1867) • The Greenback Labor Party (1874) • Farmers’ Alliance (1876) • The People’s (Populist) Party (1892)
Populist Party Platform Excerpts from the 1892 Populist Party platform: • We demand free and unlimited coinage of silver and gold • Transportation being a means of exchange and a public necessity, the government should own and operate the railroads in the interest of the people. The telegraph and telephone, like the post-office system, being a necessity for the transmission of news, should be owned and operated by the government in the interest of the people.
Populist Party Platform Excerpts from the 1892 Populist Party platform: • the revenue derived from a graduated income tax should be applied to the reduction of the burden of taxation now levied upon the domestic industries of this country • we cordially sympathize with the efforts of organized workingmen to shorten the hours of labor, and demand a rigid enforcement of the existing eight-hour law on Government work
Populist Party Platform Excerpts from the 1892 Populist Party platform: • we favor a constitutional provision limiting the office of President and Vice-President to one term, and providing for the election of Senators of the United States by a direct vote of the people
The Debt-Deflation Doldrums • Many farmers were plagued by a viscous combination of falling prices (deflation) and heavy debt. • Deflation made it even more difficult to pay off debt and many farmers were facing foreclosure. • Many farmers tried to increase production to get out of debt. This actually lowered prices, worsening the problem.
The Free Silver Solution • To many, the answer was to increase the money supply. This would cause inflation and make it easier for farmers to pay off their debts. • Populists advocated the “free coinage” of silver which meant turning silver into legal currency.
Results • The Populist movement never gained the presidency, but it did gain influence on the state level. • Some of the populist reforms were eventually adopted (graduated income tax, direct election of senators) • Never managed to significantly improve the position of farmers
Analyze the reasons for the emergence of the Populist Movement in the late nineteenth century. (1995 AP Test)1) Write a thesis statement2) Outline a basic organizational structure (you need main ideas, not specific sub-structure)(This will be turned in for credit)
Sample Thesis Populism emerged in the late 1800s because farmers were frustrated with high debt and low prices, felt that banks and railroads were too powerful, and felt that government was not responsive to the needs of the people.