The populists of the 1890’s arose in response to the Robber Baron excesses of that Gilded Age of robbery and plunder by a few against the many – an era quite a lot like ours.
Update the language in their 1892 platform, and it could be written about our current times.
The conditions which surround us best justify our co-operation; we meet in the midst of a nation brought to the verge of moral, political and material ruin. Corruption dominates the ballot-box…. The people are demoralized;… public opinion silenced…. homes covered with mortgages, labor impoverished, and the land concentrating in the hands of capitalists. The urban workman are denied the right to organize for self-protection, imported pauperized labor beats down their wages… and [we] are rapidly degenerating into European conditions. The fruits of the toils of millions are boldly stolen to build up colossal fortunes for a few, unprecedented in the history of mankind…. From the same prolific womb of governmental injustice we breed the two great classes Â tramps and millionaires.
The national power to create money is appropriated to enrich bond-holders….
Controlling influences dominating both… parties have permitted the existing dreadful conditions to develop without serious effort to prevent or restrain them. Neither do they now promise any substantial reform…. They propose to sacrifice our homes, lives, and children on the alter of mammon; to destroy the multitude in order to secure corruption funds from the millionaires….
We seek to restore the government of the Republic to the hands of the “plain people.”
I’ll have a series of posts about the Populists starting Monday.