Each of those accomplishments mentioned above incorporate, in some form or another, progressivist beliefs. However, there are also elements of populism in each, which seems to suggest that progressivism and populism, particularly in relation to War on Poverty policies and New Deal policies, are connected in some fundamental way. As one looks more deeply into the intellectual climate in which these policies were past, it becomes clearer that these two philosophies are intertwined.
First, one must define what exactly constitutes populism. Populism is a form of discourse (or rhetoric in some cases) that is attractive in some way to the public, typically those who are not in the extreme upper or lower classes. According to one scholar, it is “a folksy appeal to the average guy or some allegedly general will” (Smith 41). However, to call something simply a form of discourse, with no underlying theory, philosophy, or ideology, is a shallow look into what is actually going on. Leaving aside the assumption that populism is only used for political gain and mass appeal, it seems that at the heart of this idea of the general will is that the general will has ultimate legitimacy in political matters. If populist speeches portray the common people’s needs and wishes as important, it is fair to say that populism itself things that the common people’s needs and wishes are important. Why exactly a particular form of populism believes this is true depends on the philosophical assumptions of the theory.
Likewise, in order to better understand progressivism, one must define it. 20th century progressivism is a swathe of attitudes that generally favored changes and reforms in the government. Noticeably, this definition does not say ‘why’ these changes and reforms were made; it only says that progressives believed they were necessary. Progressivism came about in response to modernization: fears about