Features December 2016
Populism, IV: The German victory over American populism
On the influence of German thought on the evolution of American politics.
American populism, from the time of Andrew Jackson to the agricultural insurgency of William Jennings Bryan and through to the passage of Prohibition in 1920, won broad support by organizing around the concept of a virtuous white Protestant rural majority fighting the power of corrupt and oppressive Northeastern business elites. The concept of populism as a conflict between the average American and morally avaricious elites is embedded in American life.
The imported concepts behind anti-populism—that is, the justifications for lording over the “deplorables”—are, however, relatively little known.
But, beginning with the conflict over whether to enter World War I, populism was increasingly defined by the Midwestern opposition of ethnic Germans to World War I and...
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