... brilliantly written, eye-opening ... Frank...is the ideal public intellectual to grapple with this duality. From 1891 to the rise of Trumpism, Frank walks readers through a minefield of assumptions about populism’s nature and history. His reflections on the 1896 presidential election set the narrative’s pace and tone ... Throughout The People, No, Frank takes pains to look at populism through a broad lens ... His reflection on how the jeans-clad Jimmy Carter wrapped himself in populism to avoid being tagged as a socialist, liberal or conservative is spot-on.
In the most compelling passages of The People, No, Frank unearths the populists from the rubble piled atop them ... Demagogy may not have been the populists’ 'true' nature; their heroism, and tragedy, were real. But how, given this history, can one wholly dismiss the kinship between the populists and the followers of Orban and Trump? ... Frank’s purpose here is explicitly polemical: He wants to realign history in order to force us to reimagine the present ... Frank treats identity politics as yet another species of elitism. Who, then, are 'the people'? ... the gulf between the populists and the antipopulists may not be quite so great as Thomas Frank supposes.
The book’s writing is clear, if sometimes heavy with sarcasm, and its author does what few writers today are capable of doing—he criticizes his own side. Mr. Frank is a firm believer in redistributionist economics and social liberalism, but he has written his book mainly to scold the American left ... The title is odd—it’s an allusion to Carl Sandburg’s poem 'The People, Yes'—but the thesis is straightforward ... The book’s chief problem is semantic. Mr. Frank sharply criticizes pundits who use the word 'populist' to describe mass political movements that do not accord with the policy aims of the original Populists. I assume he understands that the same word can have a variety of legitimate applications, but he gives no indication that he understands it. For Mr. Frank, the term 'populism' and its cognates can only apply to political movements that Mr. Frank approves of.
Anyone looking for a compact, highly readable history of the American political movement known as populism, and the determined efforts from both right and left to squelch it, will enjoy prominent progressive journalist Thomas Frank’s The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism ... Credit goes to Frank for this admirable effort to reclaim the noblest parts of the populist legacy and make them relevant for contemporary Americans, but there’s good reason to doubt we’ll see this platform realized soon, no matter who prevails in November 2020.
... a sprightly crafted survey of populist philosophy over the past century as it contends with more established political forces that have considered its ideas to be backwards and undemocratic ... A valuable history of an important political tradition, and what it means for the future.
There’s no doubting Frank’s research ... but I wonder...to what extent Frank overly romanticizes his historical subjects ... It may be tempting to read a particular sociocultural consciousness into the past when it comes to the 1890s’ 'Pops'—overly familiar shorthand for populists Frank uses throughout the book—but it ultimately makes for a less convincing argument overall ... What is striking about Frank’s historical and social analyses is that they virtually ignore religious social actors, who were irrefutably significant players at various points in time in the longer story of American populism ... The role of media in cultivating either populist and/or fascist sentiment in Frank’s story goes largely undertheorized. And as a result, we lose a sense of how individuals in the past mobilized one or the other and to what end: democratic or otherwise ... In short, Frank succumbs to the very ideology he resents: the searing of uncouth men.
... [a] fervent and acerbically witty call to action ... Frank blends diligent research with well-placed snark to keep readers turning the pages. Liberals will be outraged, enlightened, and entertained.