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An eye-opening account of populism, the most important — and misunderstood — movement of our time.
Everything we think we know about populism is wrong. Today, populism is seen as a frightening thing, a term pundits use to describe the racist philosophy of Donald Trump and European extremists. But this is a mistake.
The real story of populism is an account of enlightenment and liberation; it is the story of democracy itself, of its ever-widening promise of a decent life for all. Here, acclaimed political commentator Thomas Frank takes us from the US’s tumultuous 1890s, when the radical left-wing Populist Party fought plutocrats, to the triumphs of reformers under Roosevelt and Truman.
Frank also shows that elitist groups have reliably detested populism, lashing out at working-class concerns; today’s moral panic in liberal circles is only the latest expression. Frank pummels the elites, revisits the movement’s provocative politics, and declares true populism to be the language of promise and optimism. People Without Power is a ringing affirmation of a movement that, Frank shows us, is not the problem of our times, but the solution.
‘Political commentator Frank (Rendezvous with Oblivion) urges liberals to reclaim ‘the high ground of populism’ in this fervent and acerbically witty call to action … Frank blends diligent research with well-placed snark to keep readers turning the pages. Liberals will be outraged, enlightened, and entertained.’
‘With his usual verve, Frank skewers the elite voices of condescension that vilify the egalitarian and democratic strivings of working people. In so doing, he offers a passionate defense of populism, which he reveals as a deep and wide political tradition that remains as essential as ever for the hopes of a more just and equitable society.’
Charles Postel, author of Equality: an American dilemma, 1866–1896