What is the difference between democracy and populism?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I tend to think that the primary difference between the two is that one is a statement and the other one is a response.  For example, democracy is seen as a statement of government.  Individuals have political power, to a certain extent, and the democratic mode of self government is how individuals are able to exercise this power.  Democracy is its own form of government and through it, the hopes for a stable political system are established.  Populism is a response to what it sees as unfairness in the political system.  Populism is a movement, an uprising, consisted of individuals who believe that they have been disenfranchised by the political system.  In theory, both populism and democracy are fairly similar in that they both speak for the will of the majority.  Yet, in its own conception, populism is a response to the perceived unfairness in a democratic setting, a believe that democracy has not been effective in addressing its concerns, and in articulating a vision of how change is needed, populism emerges.  It is here where I think that a fundamental difference between both arises.