A populist is a leader who advocates for the majority of citizens in actions as well as words, not just someone who panders for votes. True populist leaders of the 20th century include Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson. Bernie Sanders is as close to the true meaning of the term populist in current politics.
Reporters have begun applying the term “populist” to President Donald Trump. While he claims to represent the people, his appointment of Wall Street representatives and other industry leaders to his Cabinet shows that he is the antithesis of a populist. Tapping into citizens’ anger does not make someone a populist.
Similarly, the term has also been applied to Marine Le Pen, the French leader of the party that is the historical descendant of the Nazi collaborators during World War II. Calling her a populist is like calling Hitler a populist because he had a lot of popular support.
A true populist will champion the cause of the people who are disadvantaged by society. To call Trump and Le Pen populists undermines the meaning of the word.
Jan William Simek, San Luis Obispo