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This is, of course, something of a matter of opinion. There is no real way to objectively say that populism clearly helps Americans. Instead, some people will say that it is helpful and others will say that it is harmful.
The main way to argue that populism helps America is to say that it allows the voices of the masses to be heard. It is often the case that American society and American government come to be dominated by elites. We see this in our Congress today, which is typically made up of rich people. We see it in the degree to which they (arguably) do the bidding of the large companies, which are allowed to give huge sums of money to their campaigns. What populism does is to give us something of an antidote to this feeling that the elites are in control. When populist politicians come to prominence, it allows the “common people” to feel that their voices and their concerns are being heard at the highest levels.
In this way, we can say that populism helps to keep our society and political system stable because it lets more parts of our population feel that they are heard.
Amid the search for a way forward for Republicans heading into the 2014 midterm elections, the drumbeat for "libertarian populism" has been getting steadily louder. That idea, defended by writers like the Washington Examiner's Tim Carney and The Transom's Ben Domenech, asks the GOP to meld two strains within its ranks that have, until now, generally been seen as discrete.
Libertarianism is characterized by its support for only minimal government intrusion into the free market. Populism, meanwhile, is known for its support of anything that benefits "regular Americans" instead of powerful elites. At first blush, the two can seem uneasy bedfellows – after all, some may wonder, doesn't capitalism just serve to make richer the already rich?
The philosophy's advocates don't see it that way. Instead, they call for eliminating governmental programs primarily because those programs give a leg up to large, entrenched interests like super PACs, labor unions, banks and corporations. Libertarian populism is defined less by what it's for and more by what it seeks to do away with – the reality that our current system unfairly privileges big institutions at everyone else's expense. Setting aside that any policy prescription liberal economist Paul Krugman doesn't like is probably worth pursuing, there are good reasons to think Carney and Domenech might be on to something.
Populism is the political doctrine in which one sides with the people against the elite. Whether it is good or bad for Americans is a matter of opinions. In American history, populist sentiment contributed to the American Revolutionary War, and shaped the young United States. Populism continues to be a force in American politics. I feel like populism is in a way good for America because it makes the people feel like they have a voice.
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