How did competing ideas like Social Darwinism and the goals of the Populist Party reflect the different segments of American society in The Gilded Age ? 

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mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Those who believed in Social Darwinism and those who believed in ideas of the Populist Party reflected very different viewpoints of different segments of American society in the late 1800s. Social Darwinists believed in the concept of “survival of the fittest.” They believed that if you worked hard and were capable, you would then be successful. If you were unsuccessful, it was your own fault. This was a very cold-hearted point of view. Some who were wealthy, some business owners, and some intellectuals tended to believe in this philosophy. The Populists, on the other hand, believed that working hard was not a guarantee of becoming successful. They believed that there were times when factors beyond the control of the individual may prevent a person from achieving success. They wanted the government to step in and help those individuals who were struggling when it was through no fault of their own. Working class people and farmers believed in the ideas of the Populist Party. These groups maintained that their lack of financial success was not due to a lack of effort. They believed there were policies in place that made it difficult for them to climb the ladder of success. Those who believed in Social Darwinism represented groups that were far different from the groups that believed in the ideas of the Populist Party.

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