The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism

The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism

From the prophetic author of the now-classic What's the Matter with Kansas? and Listen, Liberal, an eye-opening account of populism, the most important--and misunderstood--movement of our time.



Rarely does a work of history contain startling implications for the present, but in The People, No Thomas Frank pulls off that explosive effect by showing us that everything we think we know about populism is wrong. Today "populism" is seen as a frightening thing, a term pundits use to describe the racist philosophy of Donald Trump and European extremists. But this is a mistake.

The real story of populism is an account of enlightenment and liberation; it is the story of American democracy itself, of its ever-widening promise of a decent life for all. Taking us from the tumultuous 1890s, when the radical left-wing Populist Party--the biggest mass movement in American history--fought Gilded Age plutocrats to the reformers' great triumphs under Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, Frank reminds us how much we owe to the populist ethos. Frank also shows that elitist groups have reliably detested populism, lashing out at working-class concerns. The anti-populist vituperations by the Washington centrists of today are only the latest expression.

Frank pummels the elites, revisits the movement's provocative politics, and declares true populism to be the language of promise and optimism. The People, No is a ringing affirmation of a movement that, Frank shows us, is not the problem of our times, but the solution for what ails us.

Title:The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism
ISBN:9781250220110
Format Type:

    The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism Reviews

  • Geoff

    A very interesting book that attempts to argue: (1) that modern Democratic Party perceptions of populism are wrong to say that populism is necessarily related to anti-democratic and anti-egalitarian m...

  • David Wineberg

    Thomas Frank has discovered that the term populism is fungible. Since its invention in the late 1800s, when it meant the native intelligence of the populace at large to correct the ills and corruption...

  • Mike

    Update, 8/17/20: Ever since I listened to an interview with Thomas Frank, I've been noticing that he's right: in the mainstream, the word "populism" has (incorrectly) become equated with right-wing au...

  • Sandra

    The best piece on the topic, by Matt Taibbi: https://taibbi.substack.com/p/kansas-...This book is a worthy sequel to Listen, Liberal, and an excellent example for the "know your history" argument. (vi...

  • Mehrsa

    This was a really good history of the populist movement and its erasure. I think Frank makes some oversimplistic assertions on some fronts (on racism, it's not super clearcut; on anti-science, he comp...

  • Eric

    TL;DR Thomas Frank’s The People, No should be required reading for VP Joe Biden’s campaign and anyone wanting to know how the Democratic party abdicated the working class. Highly recommended!Di...

  • Wick Welker

    Here’s a novel idea: maybe people know what’s best for themselves.Author of Listen Liberal, Frank offers another scathing analysis of not only the switch and bait of the modern day Republican Part...

  • Foppe

    Less useful than I'd hoped. The topic is certainly very important to explore, and worth exploring, even if this has already been done in great detail by authors Frank probably wouldn't read, like Marx...

  • Peter

    Thomas Frank deserves more credit than he gets in left-leaning circles. Much of his reputation comes from his 2004 breakout book, “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” This is a problem for two reaso...

  • Ryan Bell

    Thomas Frank’s new book, “The People, NO,” a reversal of the title of Carl Sandburg’s poem, is written his typical style, full of an appropriate frustration and passion. The history is importa...