Top 10 Populist Leaders

Populism is an ideology that compares the people to the elite. According to Populism, the power should lie in the hands of the common people (common sense of the common people). As the rights of the people are constrained by the power of the elite, populism furthermore calls for a change in the political system. Direct Democracy and Referenda are two practices the populists regard. This list is dedicated to 10 leaders who followed this belief.


1. Jack Layton:

This former opposition leader and the head of the New Democratic Party of Canada was a left wing populist. He believed in talking to the people, as opposed to talking at them. The man was charismatic until his dying day. He was loved for his good heart and his caring personality. He put his people and their rights first.


2. Preston Manning;

This leader of the Reform Party of Canada was a right-wing populist. He advocated for an elected senate, radical budget and tax cuts and desired to replace existing social welfare programs by private charities. Additionally, he defended traditional family values and was against the constitutional “distinct society” status for Québec.


3. Theodore Roosevelt:

This United States President revived the populist platform in the early 20th century with his anti-big business policies. He amended the constitution to allow for the direct election of the senate. He also supported farmers and called for employment on public works. Roosevelt was elected because he was confident; he looked to satisfy the people and was strong in his policies.


4. Ross Perot:

This United States presidential candidate used his personal wealth to communicate with his voters. He held infomercials with extensive charts and was liked because he was self-financed. Throughout his campaign, he focused on deficit cutting, reducing spending and increasing taxes on social security, gas and tobacco. He was charismatic and blurred the lines of charisma and authoritarianism.


5. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador

This former Mexico City mayor ran for President in 2006 and represented the Coalition for the Good for All. He promised to increase monthly salaries to the poor and elder. He also promised to re-negotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement to, again, protect the Mexican poor. However, the ruling party portrayed him as a risk to economic stability and stipulated that Obrador would not keep his promises.


6. Juan Domingo Perón:

This Argentinian President was also a populist. He stood up with the people of Argentina to overthrow the corrupt regime led by General Farrell. He gained the trust of his people as Minister of Labour under Farrell. Furthermore, he attempted to improve the rights of workers on various levels. When Perón elected in 1946, workers were given symbolic dignity and material benefits.


7. Getulio Vargas:

Vargas was a wealthy landowner and cattle rancher from the frontier state of Rio Grande does Sul. He was a nationalist leader in Brazil who advocated for a strong centralized and executive level government. Given his populist beliefs, he created cross class alliances between the urban working class, the industrial class, and the middle class. He was pro urban working class and recognized the importance of the class.


8. Margaret Thatcher:

The British Prime Minister was a right wing populist. She believed in share-owning democracy. In her opinion everyone had the right to feel they were capitalists.


9. Woodrow Wilson:

This President of the United States argued for a stronger central government and fought for anti-trust legislation and labour rights. He introduced the New Freedom platform, which set to destroy monopolies and to allow smaller businesses to thrive.


10. Eugene McCarthy:

This Presidential Candidate of 1968 was an advocate of popular democracy. He took on the libertarian version of civil liberties by advocating for full employment.


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