Harry Boyte

Recent Articles

Democratic Engagement:Bringing Populism and Liberalism Together

Long wary of each other, populism and liberalism could benefit from each other’s strengths.

Liberalism and populism exist in an uneasy but symbiotic relationship. Liberals are wary of populism's tendencies toward parochialism, nationalism, and romanticism about community and "the people." Populists see liberals as wary of mass democracy and bending toward elitism. Yet these two strands of the American political tradition have been closely linked, from Franklin Roosevelt's tirades against "economic royalists" to the appeals of Robert Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Jesse Jackson, or Barbara Mikulski. As the 1990s begin, populist anger has been piqued by the savings and loan scandal, mounting economic difficulties, government ineptitude, and the sense that the rampant greed and reckless economic policy of the 1980s papered over and exacerbated deep problems in American society. Political analyst Kevin Phillips argues that a populist perspective may color politics through the decade, despite the popularity of George Bush in the aftermath of the Gulf War. All of this suggests...