Grassroots activism, presenting a cacophony of voices calling for reform of various sorts without programmatic coherence, is often derided as populist and distrusted by both political parties and voters. But according to Donald T. Critchlow, Katzin Family Professor of history at ASU, grassroots movements are actually responsible for political party transformation, both Democratic and Republic, into instruments of reform that reflect the interests, concerns and anxieties of the electorate.
Contrary to popular discourse warning about the dangers of populism, Critchlow argues that grassroots activism is essential to party renewal within a democratic system. "In Defense of Populism" examines movements that influenced Republican, Democratic and third-party politics — from the Progressives and their influence on Teddy Roosevelt, to New Dealers and FDR, to the civil rights, feminist and environmental movements and their impact on the Democratic Party, to the Reagan Revolution and the Tea Party. In each case, Critchlow narrates representative biographies of activists, party leaders and presidents to show how movements become viable calls for reform that get translated into policy positions.
Join the Political History and Leadership program for a public lecture by Critchlow on the topic.