What caused the end of the populist movement?

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mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Populist movement was popular for a while, but it eventually declined. There are some reasons for the decline of the Populist Party. One reason has to do with the needs of the workers and the needs of the farmers. The farmers wanted monetary policies that would raise the price of crops. They want the government to provide places where farmers could store their crops until farm prices rose. They wanted low-interest loans. They also wanted the government to increase the money supply. These policies didn’t sit well with workers. Workers, for example, weren’t going to support policies that would increase the cost of food. Workers were also fearful that the policies of the Populists could cause them to lose their jobs. In the election of 1896, business owners strongly suggested that a victory by William Jennings Bryan would lead to layoffs.

Another factor that hurt the Populist Party and led to its decline was the economy improved after the election of 1896. As a result, there was less of a need to increase the money supply, which had been a big theme of the Populist Party.

Finally, the country was not ready for some of the progressive ideas of the Populist Party. For example, the Populist Party called for the direct election of United States Senators. While this happened in 1913, the country was not ready to embrace this concept in the 1890s. The Populist Party was too forward thinking for the country on this issue.

There were several reasons for the decline of the Populist Party.

beardian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Populist Party (or people's party) was popular because it supported farmers in the South and West who were suffering from declining prices, high interest rates, economic depressions, droughts, and an unpredictable market.  The populist party gained national attention when they supported Democratic nominee William Jennings Bryan as their presidential candidate.  

One of the reasons this led to a decline in the populist party is because nominating Bryan alienated the African-American populists.  The African-Americans argued that the democratic party failed to support them in the South.  The white populists ignored their appeal and supported Bryan.  When Bryan lost to Republican William McKinley in the election, the populist movement took a major hit.  

Additionally, right about this time, gold and been discovered out west, which renewed the economy and helped many farmers in this region, who had previously relied on the populist party to fight for their prosperity.  Now that the economy was picking up, the populist party wasn't needed anymore.  

Ultimately, the populist party merged in with the Progressive Party, which had a much larger audience (all working class as opposed to just farmers in the South and West) and was more successful in achieving goals for its supporters.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The populist movement ended for two main reasons.  First, it was unable to get enough people to support it.  It was never really able to expand its base past the farm communities of the South and West.  It was never able to make inroads among the workers and among the middle class.  Second, the populist movement was absorbed into the Progressive movement.  The Progressives were able to take populist ideas and integrate them into a bigger movement.  The Progressives had a much bigger agenda and were able to appeal to workers and to the middle class.  Therefore, they were better than the populists at achieving populist goals.  This helped them to be successful and made the populists irrelevant.

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