Four years ago, in my high school government class, I learned about a political party that existed very briefly in American history and has since helped shape my worldview on politics and government.

The Populist Party, otherwise known as the People’s Party, was formed in 1891 as a result of revolts by farmers and laborers against the Democratic and Republican Parties for ignoring their interests and difficulties for over a decade.

Their main platform focused on asking the federal government to buffer economic depressions, regulate banks and help laborers who were suffering in hard times. However, it was not so much the specific demands, but the spirit behind those demands that caught the attention of millions of followers back then—and, quite frankly, myself that day in government class.

The organized Populist Party is noted in history to have existed until about 1908. I am no historian, but I tend to disagree with that timeline.

Sure, the official Populist Party may no longer be organized. But I truly believe that in the heart of the political attitude of the American people lies an essence of populism.

We see it in different forms today: from the rise of the Libertarian movement, to the fairly recent Occupy Wall Street movement, even to Tea Party sentiments. There is one underlying theme transcending the current American electorate: the goal of shifting the focus of government back to the every day citizen.

Since that year in government class, other things have unfolded that have led me into the realm of politics and public policy. Early into my years of involvement in politics, I toiled with the question of “what party do I belong to?” While I have my leanings in some directions over the other, I still cannot say that I am 100 percent this or that.

I have come to learn that the national Democratic and Republican parties are really just two big groups that divide the public based on varying differences of opinion. The reality is, partisanship is just a tool used to simplify political beliefs—that’s it.

What we as voters should be focused on is who our elected officials actually represent. When you think of your senator or congressman, what comes to mind first: how he or she has represented the interests of you and your peers? Or do you think of his or her political party affiliation first?

Since the birth of our country’s modern government, it has always been intended to be a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. It should never be intended of the Democrats, by the Republicans, for the special interest groups.

From common man to businessman, it is our job as citizens of this nation to see to it that we are led by those who understand the plight of every person.

Brett Johnson
Staff Writer

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