Populism is America’s own indigenous radical tradition.
It always surges back when elites get too cozy with themselves and too far out over their skis and disconnected from ordinary people. That’s exactly what is happening today and it sounds very much like it did in the Jackson era in the early 19th century or the Bryan era in the early 20th century. There are few things more American than our storied tradition of conspiracy theories and suspicion of elites.
The American Revolution was fueled by conspiracy theories about King George III and the Papacy and the Anglican Church. The 1824 election was said to be a Corrupt Bargain. The War Between the States was stoked by conspiracy theories. The John Brown raid confirmed the existence of the abolitionist conspiracy in the minds of Southerners while Northerners believed in the vast Slave Power conspiracy. The Left just as ardently believes in its own cherished conspiracy theories like the Russia Hoax or now systematic racism. The Right has QAnon. The Left has Rachel Maddow.
New Deal liberalism combined populism with progressivism. Modern conservatism emerged as its opposition in the wake of the Great Depression. As the Democratic Party has attracted more and more highly educated, upper middle class PMCs with modernist and cosmopolitan values, progressives have alienated and driven out the populists who have been drifting over to the Republican Party.
The Democratic Party and Republican Party have been swapping out their bases. The process has been going on for several decades with the South becoming steadily more Republican and now the Midwest while the East and West Coast have become more Democratic, but it has greatly accelerated since the 2012 election. The PMC ratio was roughly equal in 2012 and this class of people controlled both political parties until Trump, but it has greatly slipped and continued to fall on the Republican side.
The hatred and loathing of Trump which is far in excess of anything he was actually doing is because he upset the delicate demographic balance which allowed this class to control both parties and have its way. It mirrors the reaction of haughty coastal elites to the rise of Jackson and Bryan.