How Populist Candidates Come To Power | KERA News

How Populist Candidates Come To Power

Oct 26, 2016

It may seem like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have nothing in common. Each candidate, though, has ideas that stray from his party’s platform.

On Think, Krys Boyd talked with journalist John B. Judis about why populist movements formed behind these two candidates. He’s the author of “The Populist Explosion: How the Great Recession Transformed American and European Politics.”

The KERA Interview

John B. Judis on: 

… why populist movements are happening this election:

“There’s this economic element within the Trump candidacy that was also characteristic of Sanders, and that I think comes about because of a response to the Great Recession. That’s what, again for me, makes the Trump phenomenon interesting, and again goes back to Ross Perot, for instance, who also came about in the wake of a big recession in 1991. There’s something happening in the United States, and it does have something to do with dissatisfaction with rules by which our economy has been governed.”  

… what populist candidates promise:

“What’s often true is that the promises they make - and it’s not so much what they promise - it's what they propose. What they demand. Because they’re not in a position to promise, because most often they’re not in power. The demands they make are seen by people within the elites, the leadership, as completely unreasonable. … I use the example of the two big demands that Bernie Sanders made, Medicare for all and free public college education. Or you can look at what Donald Trump says, which is he’s going to prevent corporations, he’s going to discourage them from moving overseas by threatening to put a tariff on their goods if they send it back. … The demands themselves aren’t necessarily ones that appear to be realistic at the time, but they speak to grievances that people have, and they’re also not things that are inconceivable.”  

… the difference between left and right wing populism:

“Left wing populism unites the middle and the bottom generally against the top. The more conservative right wing identifies with the middle class, the middle and sometimes sees people on the lower part of the spectrum as being coddled by the establishment, whether they are African Americans, Muslims, illegal immigrants, what have you. And they do seem to arise at the same time, and they depend upon a kind of level of grievance that exists.”