Jerald Podair discusses Spiro Agnew’s place in the continuum of Republican populist candidates. Listening are Ripon College President Zach Messitte, middle, and Chuck Holden.
Jerald Podair discusses Spiro Agnew’s place in the continuum of Republican populist candidates. Listening are Ripon College President Zach Messitte, middle, and Chuck Holden.

   This man sat in one of America’s top offices.

   He was bombastic, attacked political enemies and the press, and championed a populist ideology.

   “He showed an ability to stir passions, to get under people’s skin and to excite those who love that he lashed out against those in power,” said Charles Holden, a history professor from St. Mary’s College in Maryland. “... He developed the art of attacking opponents verbally, but then claiming he was just calmly, rationally telling it like it is — and that someone had to do it.”

   Sound like President Donald Trump?

   Maybe, but it also describes a political figure rarely spoken of in 2019.

   Spiro Agnew.

   Whether Trump is intentionally following the playbook written by Agnew or by coincidence, the parallels between the two Republican leaders is striking.

   Or, so argue several men — including Ripon College President Zach Messitte — in a book they’re releasing next week: “Republican Populist: Spiro Agnew and the Origins of Donald Trump’s America.”

   “We believe that he plays a far more significant role, not in policy, but in politics,” Messitte said, “and particularly the trajectory of the Republican Party over the last 50 years.”

Read the full story, outlining parallels between Trump's tactics and the role of populism in the Republican Party over the past half century, in the Oct. 17, 2019 edition of the Ripon Commonwealth Press.