Party like it's 1892
January 5, 2005 5:14 PM   Subscribe

Party like it's 1892! "Executive power and patronage have been used to corrupt our legislatures and defeat the will of the people, and plutocracy has thereby been enthroned upon the ruins of democracy."* In the late 1800s, the Populist Party, or People's Party, formed to merge the Farmers Alliance message of economic empowerment for growers with the Knights of Labor's movement to check the growing power and corrupt practices of big business (along with the Greenbacks Party critiques of monetary policy). With a strong base in the midwest and south, the party earned 9% of the 1892 popular vote, won the presidential electoral votes of four states (not to mention electing 10 congressmen, 5 senators, 3 governors, and 1,500 state legislators). However the party's power quickly faded as the Democratic Party co-opted much of the Populist platform while internal disputes culminated in the Populists placing the Dems' 1896 nominee at the head of their own ticket. Nevertheless, the populist movement's influence continued to be felt through various 20th century reforms including direct election of senators, presidential term limits, and abandonment of the gold standard.
posted by nakedcodemonkey (7 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've often found myself wondering if, 100 years from now, they'll call this period "The Second Guilded Age" or "The Third Great Awakening." I'm a sucker for a good history fpp.
posted by absalom at 5:33 PM on January 5, 2005

Excellent post, and where are today's populists? Williams Jennings Bryan was a Democrat, but he took over part of the Populist program, and I can still recite the climax of his Cross of Gold speech. Bring on the fiery rhetoric!
posted by languagehat at 5:52 PM on January 5, 2005

Nice post ncm. Tom Franks says in his book What's the Matter with Kansas that a lot of populist rhetoric was co-opted by the current Republican administration in their bid for re-election. As a result, a state that had strong populist roots and went for Weaver in 1892 is now staunchly Republican even though many of the Republican's economic programs go against the tax brackets that most Kansans live in. Nice to see a more historical set of links about populism.
posted by jessamyn at 6:03 PM on January 5, 2005

Jessamyn, thanks for pointing out the Franks book. That's definitely going on my reading list.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 7:35 PM on January 5, 2005

Wow. What a fascinating set of links. More like this, please.
posted by mediareport at 11:04 PM on January 5, 2005

More proof that the best posts often get the fewest comments. Well done.
posted by norm at 8:19 AM on January 6, 2005

From the FPP's first link: "They associated the forces of power with oppression and the ascendancy of liberty with social advance. Because wealth brought power to its possessor, and poverty made men dependent upon others, liberty became contingent upon widespread equality. The commitment to both equality and liberty led Americans to develop a freehold concept which held that all men had a natural right to the land."

Which reminds me of the Programme of the [Russian] Socialist Revolutionary Party. See also the external links at the bottom of the Wikipedia article. A quick Google search got more links on the SRs.
posted by davy at 8:55 AM on January 6, 2005

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