Update #3: Writing about American Populism

Hello folks! These last couple weeks I have been finishing up the sources I gathered discussing American populism during the 20th century, today, and how it has evolved and begun writing my literature review. Something I have made sure to keep in mind while writing about these politicians and their use of populism (Huey Long, Father Coughlin, George Wallace, and Donald Trump) is the importance of providing historical context to their rise and terms as elected officials. That being said, it can be difficult to keep entire decades of political history short, but I think I have been doing a good job of presenting this information concisely.

Additionally, this past week I finished up my reading with a paper discussing the differences between right- and left- wing populism, primarily because the majority of what I have read about populism in the United States is an analysis of the more right-wing application of this political strategy. This is because historically right-wing populism is what has been more successful in gaining popularity and national support from a broad voter audience despite being successfully kept out of mainstream politics. I think this interesting to understand when today we have figures such as Bernie Sanders and other more progressive democratic candidates and Donald Trump who are very much mainstream and at the center of our next election. Anyways the difference between right- and left- wing populism is in who they mark as the “enemy” of “the people” they are part of and represent. As Samir Gandesha put it, right-wing populists mark the enemy of the people as external groups of Others, which is in very personalized terms. On the other hand, left-wing populists defines its enemies in terms of socio-economic structures and institutions. This is very evident when listening to the differences in Trump’s rhetoric and Sanders’ rhetoric.

One of the most eye-opening things I have learned through this research is the variety of lenses in which politics and history are analyzed through. I read many conflicting academic papers, which reinforces the idea that history and its analysis remains partisan in some respects. Populism and its use throughout is not necessarily something disputed, however its analysis of its causes, current employment, and what that could mean for the future of American politics is very much still being discussed.

I hope everyone’s projects have gone well, and I’ll be back soon with a conclusion post and my final paper!