Ethnology: An International Journal of Cultural and Social Anthropology, Vol 50, No 1 (2011)

SMALL TOWN POPULISM AND THE RISE OF ANTI-GOVERNMENT POLITICS

Claudine Pied

Abstract


The 2008 economic recession spurred U.S. conservative populist movements characterized by claims that an expansive government was threatening American “ordinary hardworking folks.” Before the recession, in a predomi­nantly white former manufacturing town in central Maine, allegations of wasteful spending, dishonest government officials, and elevated taxes infiltrated battles over revitalization projects and town budgets. While community development efforts failed to address the interests of the economically insecure, business owners and others calling for decreased spending and lower taxes acknowledged the struggles of working- and middle-class residents. Decades of national politics linking market-centered political ideologies to the racialized (i.e., white) concept of the “ordinary American” helped small-government advocates connect with voters.

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