The Populist Persuasion: An American History
By Michael Kazin
If populism now seems “something of a fashion statement,” Kazin (Barons of Labor) ably reveals its rich and textured history. Activists from varied backgrounds have sought to invoke and speak to the masses since the late-19th-century People’s Party mobilized agrarians and artisans. Kazin chronicles the place of populism in the labor and socialist movements of the Progressive era, prohibitionism and the crusades of radio cleric Charles Coughlin. After WWII, populism switched from left to right: the Cold War begat Sen. Joseph McCarthy, the New Left failed to “speak authentically,” given their middle-class backgrounds, and George Wallace and Ronald Reagan tapped mass anxieties about race and taxes. In a society often said to be in decline, populism becomes “a language of the disspirited,” but Kazin observes that progressive intellectuals must take account of populism if our society’s problems are to be solved.
From Publishers Weekly