I was drawn to the words "storm-the-gates populism" in the following passage of the New York Times’ (February 15) article that came under the title, "Donald Trump escalates rhetoric before South Carolina primary":

"If Mr. Trump wins the primary on Saturday, as every public poll shows him on track to do, it will be after reverting to the storm-the-gates populism that led to his political rise and refusing to back down amid criticism."

I googled for the clue to fathom out the meaning of "storm-the-gates populism" and picked up the following three related sources:

  1. Storm the Gates of Hell is the fourth studio album by Christian metal band Demon Hunter, released on November 6, 2007, which apparently seems to be irrelevant to the case.

  2. When we storm the gates of hell, the church is marching into all the hells in this world, ready to reclaim every square inch for Christ. And when we storm the gates of hell, Christ promises we cannot fail. We will prevail! It’s time to put the devil on the run. The phrase pulai hadou (gates of hell) is a Jewish expression meaning "realm of the dead." — Ligoniel Ministries.

  3. In Matthew 16, Jesus asks his disciples the question: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” Then Cephas pipes up: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus commends his outspoken disciple: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” . – ibid.

Given the above input, still I’m not able to come to the clear notion of "storm–the-gates populism." Is "storm the gates" totally irrelevant to "storm the gates of hell"? What does it mean? Is it a well-estabished phrase, or a political buzzword?

  • 1
    "Storm-the-gates" is effectively an adjective for "populism". The type of populism is that which would encourage people to (figuratively) form a mob and storm the gates (of, eg, "the establishment" or "the liberal media" or whatever).
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 16, 2016 at 1:13

2 Answers 2


"Let's storm the gates of the castle!"

is what the townspeople in all those old Turner Classic movies shout to each other when they're fed up with being treated poorly. This is where the author's reference stems from.

One specific example are the disgruntled villagers with pitchforks and torches who, outraged and angry, rush Dr. Frankenstein's castle...you know that scene. It's been in millions of movies. That's a storm-the-gates mentality.

Another is the lyrics to the song "Burn Down The Mission" by Elton John:

Bring your family down to the riverside
Look to the east to see where the fat stock hide
Behind four walls of stone the rich man sleeps
It's time we put the flame torch to their keep

"Storming the gates" is shorthand for the common people taking back control. It's a mob composed of people without power, who gather together to attack the more powerful, with the goal being an overthrowing, rebellion or revolution.

So storm-the-gates populism, for example, would be the 90% of Americans who have just 25 percent of the country's wealth banding together to attack the 10% of Americans who hold 75 percent of the wealth.

It is not an official phrase, as far as I know. But I happened to "get it," and I thought it was a really nice turn of a phrase by the author.


The verb storm is a powerful word which means:

(Of troops) suddenly attack and capture (a building or other place) by means of force.

[Oxford Online Dictionary]

If you imagine a war fought in the Medieval Age, the most important thing in trying to capture a castle is how to attack its gate and crush it open. A lot of forces and brave soldiers are needed and it is a very risky and difficult process where many soldiers could lose their life even before reaching the gate.

To storm the gate is a metaphorical expression to mean such a difficult process. In the context, for a politician like Donald Trump to be elected as President (or nominated as a presidential candidate), he needs to break a lot of barriers (gates) and it would be as much difficult as storming the gate of a castle. Furthermore, it requires many more supporters who are willing to join his cause and even sacrifice themselves than other established and main-stream candidates.

Storm-the-gate populism is the same metaphor. It is populism that requires a lot of enthusiasm and courage from supporters as if they were attacking the gate of a castle. The gate could mean the gate of the White House, the Republican Party nomination, bias and prejudice against a politician like Donald Trump.

The linked article contains a powerful speech made by Jill Soloway encouraging other female movie directors to storm the gates. In this context, the gates are bias and prejudice against female directors. You will get a more sense of the phrase if you read the article.

Jill Soloway to female filmmakers: 'Let's storm the gates'

I’m way up here naming things. And they are NOT GIVING UP THOSE LOOKOUT SPOTS EASILY, in fact they won’t even cop to the fact that they have that privilege. Wait what? We’ve had the voice too long? We’re not doing it on purpose… So yeah, instead of waiting for these guys to change, instead STORM the gates, grab hands with each other, RUN like red rovers at the lifeguard chairs, snarl at the bases like wild starving beast dogs, boost each other up those watch towers and pull those motherf*ckers down.

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