As the media and Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama force-feed the country populism, National Public Radio (NPR) went back to the movementâs roots.
Famed populist William Jennings Bryan â a three-time Democratic presidential nominee was the subject of NPRâs âAll Things Consideredâ âRadio Diariesâ Oct. 14. Even though Bryan never won a bid for the presidency, NPR commemorated his famous âCross of Goldâ speech given at the 1896 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The speech propelled Bryan, an unlikely candidate, to the nomination in 1896 and later to the 1900 and 1908 nominations, but that wasnât where he left his biggest mark on history according to NPR.
âBut at the same time, Bryanâs platform of really believing that you need to make the masses more prosperous and that prosperity will work its way up to the rich rather than trickle down, his support for more government intervention in the economy to help the have-nots â that really became the core of modern liberalism and that changed his party,â NPRâs Joe Richman explained. âYou can say in many ways Bryan was one of the most important losers in American political history.â
As National Reviewâs David Frum pointed out, there are striking similarities between Bryanâs populism and Obamaâs liberalism. In some ways, Bryanâs âCross of Goldâ speech had the effect on the Democratic Party in 1896 as Obamaâs 2004 Democratic convention speech had on the party in Boston â both speeches were full of âprogressive ideals.â
âLike Obama, Bryan was a charismatic young political (just 36 at the time of his first presidential run!) with a thin political record,â Frum said. âYet on the strength of one legendary speech at a Democratic national convention, he was clutched to heart by the party's left wing and made the repository of its grandest hopes on a whole range of so-called progressive causes.â