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The perils of populism

(02/29/16 7:08am)

In this election cycle, there has been a resurgence of populism, a political ideology that emphasizes the needs of the general public above those of the elite, on both the right and the left. Two presidential candidates in particular, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, have embraced populism and achieved extraordinary success, astounding political observers and the establishment wings of their respective parties. While it can be tempting for non-populists to dismiss such movements as ephemeral and extremist factions that ought to be purged from mainstream politics, populism is rooted in legitimate concerns, as demonstrated by a brief survey of the causes of populist politics in the Roman Republic and the modern United States. In order to avoid the excesses of populism, moderates across the political spectrum must work to rectify these concerns and ensure our system of governance works for all citizens, not just a few.