Populist conservatism, often dubbed Trumpism, has been floated as the future of the Republican Party. But some have cautioned conservatives against adopting a populist agenda out of fear of its potential consequences, likening it to Vermont Sen.
Bernie Sanders’ vision of a political revolution. Both movements tell a story about America and the American people, identifying similar problems faced by the common man. But those movements tell fundamentally different stories about the nature of America and what its future should be.
Populism is a worldview that has existed for thousands of years. It manifests in ways unique to a country’s culture, history, or values. It isn’t a substantive, clearly-defined philosophy, but it is a powerful tool for a political leader to use in a democracy.
That leader, the “populist,” tells a story about the hardships of the people and their plights, imposed specifically by the “powerful.” The populist rallies the people around his or her story and against the powerful, ideally to create a government with the interests of the people at heart.
Figures like Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — both proponents of Democratic socialism — share a narrative in which the common man has been hoodwinked by the elites of private industry, and that they must collectively fight against these forces through the power of democracy in order to change America.
This theme of progressive populism can be fairly understood as “American possibility” — the nation was fundamentally flawed since its inception and designed to benefit only a small group of privileged people, but capable of change.
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