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'The power of populism': Episode 5


Find a full transcript of the episode here.

"Populism is what we desperately need. What we have to have and what we can't have."

That's Thomas Frank. And he says that while populism can metastasize into authoritarianism, it doesn't have to.

In fact, he says the roots of American populism made this country's democracy better.

"Populist movement showed the way forward in everything from race relations to currency, reformed votes for women to railroad regulation. They were the good guys of history."

Which is why Frank wants the United States to resurrect progressive populism. But other observers strongly disagree.

"Whether they come from the left or the right, why once they come to power, they invariably turned authoritarian," Jean Louise Cohen says. "Is it just an accidental coincidence all the time?"

The fifth and final episode of On Point's special series 'The power of populism' explores whether populism can make better democracies.


Thomas Frank, Author of The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism and What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America. Author of the article We need to reclaim populism from the right. It has a long, proud leftwing history.

Jean Louise Cohen, Singer professor of political theory at Columbia University. Co-author of Populism and Civil Society: The Challenge to Constitutional Democracy. Author of the research papers What's wrong with the normative theory (and the actual practice) of left populism and Is a ‘Left Populism’ Possible?

Jack BeattyOn Point news analyst. Author of the Age of Betrayal: The Triumph of Money in America and editor of Colossus: How the Corporation Changed America. (@JackBeattyNPR)

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Micah White, co-creator of the 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement.

Paige Sutherland Producer, On Point
Paige Sutherland is a producer for On Point.


Meghna Chakrabarti Host, On Point
Meghna Chakrabarti is the host of On Point.


Tim Skoog Sound Designer and Producer, On Point
Tim Skoog is a sound designer and producer for On Point.



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