Populism and Policies

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(Newswire.net — October 4, 2016) — Populism, a political philosophy that has experienced many revivals of popularity throughout history, has made a comeback for the 2016 election cycle. Rather than the elitism of aristocracy or plutocracy, populism promotes the ideal of government by the whole people of a nation rather than a small and elite group. In this year’s presidential election, possibly for the first time in recent history, both major candidates for president have populist themes in their campaign platforms.

Economic Factors

In America, populism is expressed when politicians appeal to the general public to form a unified coalition to influence government. Economic protectionism is now reigning the day in both parties. In fact, both presidential candidates are following their respective parties’ adjustment to increasingly populist platforms. On the campaign trail, both Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump are lukewarm to cold on support of trade agreements. Some say that move is influenced by the success of former candidate Bernie Sanders’ popular values and ideas.

In actuality, the Republicans are also utilizing populist strategy as a result of a splintering focus in their ranks. They have switched from talking about the strengths of globalization to what will improve the status of working-class, everyday Americans. 

There are some broader influences to this swing to populist rhetoric as well. Neither candidate is enjoying broad support from the nation, breeding uncertainty and borderline panic. What will happen to the economy and financial markets when the election is over? Short –term the markets might be choppy, but long-term investments really don’t care who is president. As noted by Fisher Investments on the Presidential Debate, candidates may promise big changes, but Presidential power is limited.  Both presidential candidates have a high rate of unpopularity and are facing a disillusioned public. Neither are enjoying broad support from the nation as candidates. But letting heightened emotional rhetoric dictate investment choices is not a good idea.

Trade Disagreements

Populist appeals to blame `the other’ such as foreign competition or wealthy elites have been found by each candidate. Populism has become a framework for each candidate’s economic policy platform. As a result, North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) have come under criticism as of late.

In the past, representatives of both the Republicans and Democrats supported NAFTA and the TPP, but the populist anger that has been whipped up by this campaign has caused members of both parties to think about their trade agreement support stance. Each political party knows that trade is necessary so Trump states that he will “renegotiate” trade agreements, and Clinton promises to have a “special prosecutor” to ensure that trade rules are complied with.

In a stump speech in Michigan in August, Clinton pledged, “I will stop any trade deal that kills jobs or holds down wages – including the Trans-Pacific Partnership. I oppose it now, I’ll oppose it after the election, and I’ll oppose it as president.” This was a polar opposite view by Clinton, who previously as Secretary of State, supported the TPP and even facilitated negotiations. At the first presidential debate, Trump pointed this change of view out, stating to Clinton, “you called TPP the gold standard of trade agreements.”


While Clinton states her pride in the work her husband former president Bill Clinton did on NAFTA in the 1990’s, she has backed away from it ever since her first bid for the presidential office. Trump’s accusation of changing support to benefit her interests politically is not new. Obama did the same thing when he ran against Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Some political critics have blamed NAFTA for economic downturns in some areas of the United States. There are studies, however, that have shown that in actuality it had very little economic effect, either good or bad, for Americans.

Both candidates talk about economic protectionism, but their approaches are polar opposites. The reality is the United States is firmly entrenched in the global economy, with the majority of the economy is in the private sector.  The result is that while economical discourse is heated now, the overall globalization of the world will continue due to technological advances and ongoing commerce. And while populist views are abundant in this election—some good, some bad—the intensity of emotions around the economy and policies should settle down once the next president is elected.