Synopses & Reviews
As Ross Perot proved in 1992, even when funded by a bottomless bank account, American third parties have always struggled in their efforts to achieve recognition and political power. Yet even in defeat their contributions to national politics have been substantial. That, Peter Argersinger contends, was certainly true of the Populists a century earlier.
Argersinger, one of our nation's foremost historians of the Populist era, brings together in this volume some of his best and most influential essays-ranging from a study of a single election campaign to complex analyses of political organizations, legislative behavior, and government institutions. Together they amply display his consistently sharp and wide-ranging insights on this important moment in American life.
Argersinger examines, among other things, the Populists' evolution in electoral politics, from creating a party to running election campaigns; the enormous obstacles they overcame in the process of electing a U.S. Senator; specific laws and procedures that suppressed Populism's full political participation; hard-won successes in Western state legislatures in the face of powerful enemies and numerous internal disputes; and the Populists' long-standing struggles and frustrations with the U.S Congress.
Throughout Argersinger illuminates the fundamental ways in which Populism challenged our political system and brings to life its volatile personalities, dramatic controversies, visionary programs, and enduring frustrations. (So frustrating that an Oklahoma Populist once pulled a gun on the Speaker of the House who kept refusing to recognize his request to speak to the assembly.)
Of special interest to political, social, rural, Western, and Gilded Age historians, this book provides a timely reminder of the political constraints on third parties in America.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 247-290) and index.
Table of Contents
1. The Political Limits of Western
2. Road to a Republican Waterloo: The Farmers' Alliance and the Election of 1890 in Kansas
3. Pentecostal Politics in Kansas: Religion, the Farmers' Alliance, and the Gospel of Populism
4. The Most Pictureque Drama: The Kansas Senatorial Election of 1891
5. Party Officials and Practical Politics
6. To Disfranchise the People: The Iowa Ballot Law and Election of 1897
7. Regulating Democracy: Election Laws and Dakota Politics, 1889-1902
8. Ideology and Behavior: Legislative Politics and Western Populism
9. Populists in Power: Public Policy and Legislative Behavior
10. No Rights on This Floor: Third Parties and the Insitutionalization of Congress