The historical parallels are compelling. When grass-roots discontent from farmers and laborers suffering in the 1893 depression ignited a Populist Party in the South and the West, demanding “radical” economic and social reforms, William Jennings Bryan, their charismatic spokesman, was able to overwhelm the Democratic Party establishment and capture the presidential nomination in 1896 and 1900. But even though Bryan received more than 6 million of 13.5 million votes in both elections, he never came close to winning the White House.
Moreover, the Populists gradually disappeared as a separate party. They were absorbed by the Democrats and pushed into the background by party progressives. It was the progressive leader Woodrow Wilson who won the presidency twice, in 1912 and 1916, by reflecting the more centrist views of middle-class Americans.