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Parties and Platforms

Introduction

Who were the Populists?

Also known as the People’s Party, the Populist Party was formed by a group of small farmers and sharecroppers to oppose large-scale commercial agriculture that they feared would put them out of work. The national party was officially founded in 1892 through a merger of the Farmers’ Alliance and the Knights of Labor. That year, the Populist presidential candidate, James B. Weaver, won over one million votes. The populists also elected ten representatives, five senators, three governors, and approximately fifteen hundred members of state legislatures. Between 1892 and 1896, however, the party was intimidated by southern Democrats, and after 1896 the party began to decline.

Populists advocated federally regulated communication, transportation, and banking systems to offset the economic depression and prevent poverty among working-class families. Progressive Republican Theodore Roosevelt resurrected many Populist ideas and recast them in new forms as he expanded the federal regulation of business corporations, and addressed many People’s Party concerns in his Progressive policies. Other Populist ideas—particularly those calling for aid to farmers and employment on public works projects in times of economic depression—became reality during the 1930s with the New Deal programs of Democratic president Franklin D. Roosevelt.



President Teddy Roosevelt was the leader of the Progressive Party, also known as the “Bull Moose” Party, after leaving the Republican Party.

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