End the duopoly

Democracy Scares, from the Destruction of Bryan to the Abdication of Bernie: Why America Desperately Needs a Second Populist Movement but Ain’t Gonna Get One an interview + Review of The People, No! A Brief History of Anti-Populism by Thomas Frank

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Yves here. Welcome back to award-winning John Siman, who gives us the first installment on Thomas Frank’s new book on the populist impulse in America and why decades of liberalism have pushed it even more into the wilderness.

By John Siman (This is the first of two essays.)

The incandescent but brutally short-lived Populist movement of the 1890s was, as Thomas Frank writes in his new book, The People, No! , “our country’s final serious third-party effort, the last one to stand a decent chance of breaking the duopoly of the Republicans and Democrats” (p. 19). Indeed, the very real possibility of William Jennings Bryan’s being elected President in 1896 as the Populist + Democratic “Fusionist” candidate so panicked the nation’s elites that they coalesced with unprecedented amounts of media vituperation and corporate money to destroy both Bryan’s candidacy and the perceived Populist insurrection. (Bryan nevertheless carried 22 states to McKinley’s 23 and won almost 47% of the popular vote.) F

rank describes the hysterical elite opposition to Bryan and the Populists, which was organized with military precision by McKinley’s genius campaign manager Mark Hanna, as America’s first Democracy Scare . After all, as Frank explains with his uniquely penetrating […]

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