Some populism is good--Bryan was more right than Darrow. It’s the populists that know what’s wrong with Darwinism--its denial of personal dignity or significance and its encouragement of eugenics. And the people, by opposing themselves to the interests, remind us that people are more than beings with interests. It’s also good to be reminded that too many of our policies are basically socialism for the rich, and that wages have dropped in relation to productivity. The case against judicial activism and especially against ROE is basically populist. The religious right--or real religion in general--is a true populist reaction against the elitist atheism or indifferentism. The Republican party has fourished for a generation on the basis of a populist reaction against the elitist liberationism of the Sixties. When the Republicans become too libertarian--or show contempt for the moral concerns or understandable anxieties of ordinary people, they lose. It’s not surprising that the WALL STREET JOURNAL doesn’t have a proper appreciation of the virtues of populism.
Here are the worst things about populism: racism, prohibitionism, and no faith in what’s true about "trickle-down economics."
With unions, public and private pensions, our health care system all collapsing under pressures for productivity in our globalizing economy, I would say that, on balance, the populists are losing today. The average guy is more on his own than ever. And, to repeat myself, it’s just not true that we’re slouching toward soft despotism.