Populism and Kleristocracy

A recent exchange on this forum included the following claims:

TA: The early Populists have been much misunderstood and caricatured, including by Hofstadter. If “populist” is to be defined non-arbitrarily, its meaning is a leader whose policy positions for the most part agree with those of the vast majority of the population. Bernie Sanders is a populist, Trump is not.

TB: I’ve been a personal friend and political ally of Sanders for over 40 years, and I agree that the “populist” label fits Sanders based on the historic use of the term dating back to the People’s Party. However, I think the term has been so over-used (and misused) by the mass media that it isn’t particularly useful any more. Any independent-minded politician, whether a leftist charismatic visionary, a demagogue, or proto-fascist is assigned the label.

According to Cas Mudde, most people use populism as a Kampfbegriff (battle cry) to defame a political opponent. The term is in fact just as applicable to politicians and political parties on the left and the right, Trump and Sanders, Front National and Podemos. In an article for Open Democracy Mudde claims that

populism is best defined as a thin-centered ideology that considers society to be ultimately separated into two homogeneous and antagonistic groups, ‘the pure people’ and ‘the corrupt elite’, and which argues that politics should be an expression of the volonté general (general will) of the people.

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