If it's in the News, it's in our Polls. Public opinion polling since 2003.

 

A Populist Panacea?

A Commentary by Larry J. Sabato

Friday, January 29, 2010

I’ll admit it. I love populism. In my youth I was always drawn to populist candidates. For over eight months I’ve been predicting that 2010 would be the Year of the Populist, and this prediction has come true. Populism is the only approach that makes sense in this angry, miserable time full of resentful voters. A sincere populist identifies with, and advocates for, the needs of ordinary powerless people, who believe they are being screwed by big, impersonal institutions and elites. By the way, people usually believe this because they ARE being screwed.

Populism can be a political vehicle for both Republicans and Democrats. The classic populist’s slogan is, "Keep the Big Boys Honest." Big Boys can be defined as Big Government (waste, fraud, and excessive spending, taxation, and debt) from a GOP perspective or Big Business (greedy bankers, Wall Street money-changers, and corporate crooks of all varieties) from a Democratic perspective. Either approach can be successful.

Whether from the Right or the Left, the populist politician must honestly suspect that there’s more going around in the dark than Santa Claus, and hanky-panky—designed to rip off the little guy—is its name.

Establishment politicians of both parties who are the favorites of the Georgetown cocktail party circuit can never be credible populists. The less "Beltway" and Ivy League the pol, the better chance he or she has to be a real populist. Limousine liberals and dress-for-dinner conservatives need not apply. If you actually enjoy hob-nobbing at the White House Correspondents Dinner, you are definitely not a populist.

Never look to the Establishment's Washington Post or New York Times to explain populism. Their reporters cover populism as though they were urbane travelers in Bulgaria, and their editorial response is always "tsk, tsk."

Populism has had its dark side in American political history. Racists and rabble-rousers have whipped up the resentments of average people and channeled them destructively. But in 2010 populism can be a force for good in the eternal struggle between the elitist haves and the downtrodden have-nots.

Let the torchlight parade of brooms and pitchforks continue!

Rasmussen Reports is a media company specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion information.

We conduct public opinion polls on a variety of topics to inform our audience on events in the news and other topics of interest. To ensure editorial control and independence, we pay for the polls ourselves and generate revenue through the sale of subscriptions, sponsorships, and advertising. Nightly polling on politics, business and lifestyle topics provides the content to update the Rasmussen Reports web site many times each day. If it's in the news, it's in our polls. Additionally, the data drives a daily update newsletter and various media outlets across the country.

Some information, including the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll and commentaries are available for free to the general public. Subscriptions are available for $3.95 a month or 34.95 a year that provide subscribers with exclusive access to more than 20 stories per week on upcoming elections, consumer confidence, and issues that affect us all. For those who are really into the numbers, Platinum Members can review demographic crosstabs and a full history of our data.

To learn more about our methodology, click here.