Populism and Party Politics

September 9, 2016 • Volume 26, Issue 31
Is the populist movement good for democracy?
By Chuck McCutcheon


Supporters of Bernie Sanders demonstrate (Getty Images/Jeff J. Mitchell)
Supporters of Bernie Sanders demonstrate at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on July 27, 2016. The Vermont senator waged what often has been described as a left-wing populist challenge to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination. (Getty Images/Jeff J. Mitchell)

Populism — the deep public mistrust of political parties and other so-called “establishment” institutions — is disrupting traditional politics in the United States as well as abroad. Analysts and academics say Donald Trump demonstrated populism's reach by winning the Republican presidential nomination, while Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders waged what often was described as a left-wing populist challenge to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. Populist movements have spread across Europe with the rise of anti-establishment politicians in several countries, underscored by the United Kingdom's June “Brexit” vote to leave the 28-nation European Union. But the meaning of populism has become elastic, as it is applied to a wide range of politicians and movements. Today's populists are amplifying many of the movement's earlier traditions through heavy use of Twitter, Facebook and other social media to launch venomous “us-versus-them” attacks on opponents. The new-media warfare has led some experts to wonder if populism is compatible with what they think should be a sober and deliberative political process.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Political Parties
May 26, 2023  Congressional Investigations
Jan. 06, 2023  Dark Money
Mar. 25, 2022  The Democrats' Future
Apr. 30, 2021  The GOP's Future
Oct. 13, 2017  Future of the Democratic Party
Sep. 09, 2016  Populism and Party Politics
Nov. 14, 2014  Nonprofit Groups and Partisan Politics
Oct. 24, 2014  Future of the GOP
Feb. 28, 2014  Polarization in America
Mar. 19, 2010  Tea Party Movement Updated
Mar. 20, 2009  Future of the GOP
Jun. 08, 2007  Democrats in Congress
Apr. 30, 2004  The Partisan Divide
Dec. 22, 1995  Third-Party Prospects
Jan. 11, 1985  Post-1984 Political Landscape
Nov. 09, 1984  Democratic Revival in South America
Sep. 14, 1984  Election 1984
Dec. 19, 1980  Future of the Democratic Party
Sep. 29, 1978  New Right in American Politics
Jan. 04, 1974  Future of Conservatism
May 03, 1972  The New Populism
Feb. 02, 1956  Foreign Policy in Political Campaigns
Dec. 22, 1954  Divided Government
Aug. 04, 1952  Two-Party System
Jun. 06, 1952  Party Platforms
Sep. 05, 1951  Southern Democrats and the 1952 Election
Oct. 06, 1948  Voting in 1948
Aug. 27, 1948  Republicans and Foreign Policy
Jul. 16, 1947  Third Party Movements
Aug. 22, 1940  Political Realignments
Jan. 13, 1938  The G. O. P. and the Solid South
Jul. 22, 1936  Third Party Movements in American Politics
Jul. 07, 1936  The Monopoly Issue in Party Politics
Nov. 12, 1935  Party Platforms and the 1936 Campaign
May 18, 1934  Political Trends and New Party Movements
Jan. 13, 1932  National Party Platforms, 1832–1932
May 16, 1928  Third Party Movements
Jan. 21, 1928  Major Party Platforms 1924–1928
Nov. 14, 1924  The Election and the Third Party
Sep. 05, 1924  Party Claims and Past Political Complexion of the States
Jun. 25, 1924  Third Party Platforms
Jun. 18, 1924  Thrid Parties: Past and Prospective
Campaigns and Elections
Conservatism and Liberalism
General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)
Internet and Social Media
North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
Party Politics
Powers and History of the Presidency
Regional Political Affairs: East Asia and the Pacific
Regional Political Affairs: Europe