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The June World's Work remarks--the passing of what William Allen White terms "American Populism" with the death of Bryan. Roosevelt, Wilson, and La Follette. Before 1890, the Populist Party, which at its height commanded but 22 electoral votes, demanded curbing of the trusts, strict regulation of railroads, banking reform, popular election of Senators, an income tax, and cheap money. At the hour of first demand, politicians of the major parties would have none of these issues. By 1917 all except the last had found expression in law. They permeated the political life of two decades and attached themselves to wings of both major parties.
One does not know whether to assign credit to universal agitation or a series of remarkable leaders. So one cannot do better than to forget both and remember that all the issues were social and economic protests indebted to politics neither for existence or importance. There could be hardly more pictorial presentation of the truism that when society proposes, the politician has no choice but to dispose. He may sit on the lid as cartoonists so often picture him, or he may let the cat prematurely out of the bag in the metaphor of conservatives; but government will ultimately reckon with all outstanding social evils.
Because of this, one is taken a back by the idea that "American Populism" has reached an end. The issues which created it have been treated: but many problems with which it dealt are still unsolved. The farmer's economic position is truly unfinished busines. Industrial relations in the ever-widening field of inter-state commerce suggest problems such as England now faces. The new industrial South is likely to bring to bear upon the Federal Government the growing pains of economic regeneration. In none of these fields is the government now active. In all of them, country-wide opinion needs little more than crystallization. One can guess that new fevers will in reasonable time rack the now inert parties.
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