People, No : A Brief History of Anti-Populism
by Frank, Thomas

Introduction: The Cure for the Common Man1(18)
1 What Was Populism?
2 "Because Right Is Right and God Is God"
3 Peak Populism in the Proletarian Decade
4 "The Upheaval of the Unfit"
5 Consensus Redensus
6 Lift Every Voice
7 The Money Changers Burn the Temple
8 Let Us Now Scold Uncouth Men
Conclusion: The Question245(12)

"From the prophetic author of the now-classic What's the Matter with Kansas? and Listen, Liberal, an eye-opening account of populism, the most important-and misunderstood-movement of our time. Rarely does a work of history contain startling implications for the present, but in The People, No Thomas Frank pulls off that explosive effect by showing us that everything we think we know about populism is wrong. Today "populism" is seen as a frightening thing, a term pundits use to describe the racist philosophy of Donald Trump and European extremists. But this is a mistake. The real story of populism is an account of enlightenment and liberation; it is the story of American democracy itself, of its ever-widening promise of a decent life for all. Taking us from the tumultuous 1890s, when the radical left-wing Populist Party-the biggest mass movement in American history-fought Gilded Age plutocrats to the reformers' great triumphs under Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, Frank reminds us how much we owe to the populist ethos. Frank also shows that elitist groups have reliably detested populism, lashing out at working-class concerns. The anti-populist vituperations by the Washington centrists of today are only the latest expression. Frank pummels the elites, revisits the movement's provocative politics, and declares true populism to be the language of promise and optimism. The People, No is a ringing affirmation of a movement that, Frank shows us, is not the problem of our times, but the solution for what ails us"-

Thomas Frank is the author of Listen, Liberal, Pity the Billionaire, The Wrecking Crew, and What's the Matter with Kansas? A former columnist for The Wall Street Journal and Harper's, Frank is the founding editor of The Baffler and writes regularly for The Guardian. He lives outside Washington, D.C.

*Starred Review* Best known for his penetrating book What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Stole the Heart of America (2004), Frank now examines the long history of American populism and shows how this movement has been demonized by everyone from the conservative wealthy in the 1890s to today's anti-Trumpers. Pinpointing the exact moment that populism got its name (on a train traveling from Kansas City to Topeka in 1891), Frank explains that populists wanted power taken from the plutocrats while advancing the . . . rights and needs, the interests and welfare of the people. Looking to join the interests of northern workers with southern farmers, both white and black (tenuously, in that case), populism began as an effort to wrest capitalism from the robber barons, advocating that those who provided product should also receive part of the profit. Those at the top met this idea with derision. And so began the march of a movement that sometimes changed form-as did the way it was perceived-but never disappeared entirely and still resonates heavily today. Frank shows all this brilliantly, as he places populism in the context of seminal historic events: wars, the Depression, McCarthyism, and recent elections. As in previous books, Frank's writing is notable for its clarity and its ability to make connections. His provocative conclusions, about elites and the people, sometimes turn common assumptions upside down-all the better for making readers think. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

Political commentator Frank tries to reclaim populism from the Trumpites and tea partiers. "I hate the common masses and avoid them." So said Roman poet Horace centuries ago. Best known for his 2004 polemic What's the Matter With Kansas?—Kansas being the birthplace of a left-agrarian populist movement of old—Frank conversely urges his readers, likely to be among the urban elite, from dismissing those folks in flyover country who, given one person and one vote, are presumed likely to make poor choices: "If you give them half a chance, they will go out and vote for a charlatan like Donald Trump." Since its emergence as a political force in the U.S. in the 19th century, populism has always been dismissed as a refuge of the stupid or lunatic, the purview of con artists and bigots. Yet, the author argues, populism is not just an old American way of doing politics, but fundamentally a progressive one as well, uniquely concerned for the well-being of workers. Trump managed to parlay his putative commitment to those workers into votes. However, notes Frank, he is definitively an autocrat and not a populist, who made promises of "populist-style reform, none of them sincere," that sounded good enough to enough voters to launch him into an office won by that least populist of institutions, the Electoral College. "How does it help us, I wonder, to deliberately devalue the coinage of the American reform tradition?" asks Frank, who encourages his readers to imagine that the matter of most pressing importance in the political landscape today is economic justice for the vast majority of people who have been overlooked by supposed progress—to say nothing of both political parties. The author lays on the indignation a little too thick at times, but it's a convincing case all the same. A sometimes-overheated but eminently readable contribution to political discourse. Copyright Kirkus 2020 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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