Conclusion and Summary

While updating you all on my research I often left out how the actual process is going, instead choosing to update everyone about what I was learning regarding the subject matter of my paper. That being said, I wanted to make this conclusion post about what I’ve learned throughout this research project and some thoughts summarizing American populism and the direction it is heading in.

1. For this project, I chose to write a literature review aiming to cover three different areas of populism: its definition, its use by politicians in the 20th century, and the form it takes under President Donald Trump. I severely underestimated how many papers had been written on the concept since Trump’s election, and was a little unprepared to comb through so many. From this, I’ve learned that organization is key; organizing my sources into the different areas of my research and only limiting myself to a number of sources allowed me to more comprehensively understand and write about them.
2. When reading about the three populists of the 20th century, it was very important to take the time to understand the historical context during which they gained popularity, because this often made it much easier to understand how they came to power and influence so quickly. Also, recognizing that history is a story with many perspectives was important for me to truly understand how we analyze the politics of those times today. Essentially, the background research was just as important as my actual research.
3. Finally, when writing I’ve learned how it takes to write so much, so concisely. The thesaurus is my new best friend. The slippery nature of a concept like populism forced me to make sure that my writing was precise and specific.

American populism today on both the left- and right-wing, are growing in popularity. I think the motivations for right-wing populism as used by Trump is becoming more and more rooted in a nativist rhetoric than in economic grievance, while populism of the left-wing form as used by Bernie Sanders is increasingly not only about denial of economic security, but also growing resentment of the ruling political parties and the corporations profiting off of the exploitation of their workers. I am excited to see how populist rhetoric arise in this upcoming election, and I think the definition of populism and its application will continue to evolve.

As consuming as this project got sometimes, it was also one of the greatest learning experiences, as well as one of the most rewarding, I’ve had so far at William and Mary.


  1. meacheson says:


    I think it is very interesting that American populism today is on both the left- and right-wing. I feel like people often forget that both ends of the spectrum use populism in order to win votes. I also never thought about the different motivations that both the left- and right-wings have for using populism. Populism has worked well in the past, and there is no reason why it will not work well in the future. I have enjoyed following your research this summer and I wish you the best of luck with your poster!