Date of Award

Spring 1987

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Political Science & International Relations

First Advisor

Dennis Wiedmann

Second Advisor

Richard Roeder

Third Advisor

Philip Wittman

Abstract

The research undertaken in this thesis investigates the possibility of the existence of Populism in Montana. Arriving at this topic was no profound discovery. After reading about Populism in Montana history books and listening to lectures and discussions in history and political science classes, I became enthralled with the movement known as Populism. I had always found Populism interesting and desired to learn more about the movement. Because my family is in the ranching business, I was very intrigued by the accounts I read about concerning attempts made by Populist agriculturalists to unite farmers and ranchers in an organization that could combat economic hardships they were facing. My own rural background has taught me that unification of agriculturalists is a difficult task. Nevertheless, the Populists attempted to do just that. In fact, they moved beyond just that mammoth chore to uniting farmers, ranchers, miners, and small businessmen! To me, there seemed to be many unanswered questions about Montana's associations with Populism. After hearing several remarks about the Populist nature of Montana's constitution, I decided to pursue this topic in a more intensive study, hoping to satisfy some of my curiosities.

I hypothesized that Populism still existed in Montana, though in much different forms than those of the early Populist movement that touched Montana in the 1890’s. Populism in Montana no longer is a party as it was in the 1890's, but instead is a set of ideas. Collecting these ideas together and trying to form patterns among them was the intent of this thesis. Before I began this study, foresight told me that I would not be able to study Populism as a third-party in Montana, instead that I must work with the ideas and goals that the party formulated, hoping to find these ideas, aspirations, and goals alive in Montana government today. The focus of this research was a contemporary study, an examination of Montana state government since 1972, since this is when major governmental changes occurred due to the revision of Montana's constitution in 1972. I speculated that Montana's government had renewed Populist tendencies because of the revision done at the 1972 Constitutional Convention.

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