Janan Ganesh speculates on the inner lives of ‘voters’, a comment by Almost Marx

It is a surprise that Mr. Ganesh begins his latest essay, that posits the notion that angry votes are ‘nostalgic for paternalist government’ with the observations of Saul Bellow and his attack on FDR, as a member of the now utterly forgotten WASP elite, who graduated from an exclusive prep school, as the expression of the power of a goyisher elite.

The FDR of ‘I welcome your hatred’ directed at his Wall Street enemies! Poor Mr. Bellow suffered from a life long complex, born of the persistent, even intractable Antisemitism of America from 1924 to his death in 2005. Mr. Bellow failed to see the what and the why of the political ascension of that ‘Groton boy’, who, by the way, saved Capitalism from itself: Glass-Steagall and Securities Exchange Act of 1934,in alliance with Ferdinand Pecora.

And not to forget Bellow’s praise of Allen Bloom’s ‘The Closing of the American Mind’ that collection of Neo-Conservative cultural/political paranoiac ramblings, couched in a irrational hatred of  ‘Rock and Roll’ addicted nihilistic youth: his students.  And Bellow’s tribute to this Nihilist dressed in ‘Classicist Drag’ that is his repetitive, not to speak of the tedious, ‘Ravelstein’. Mr. Ganesh’s demonstrable ignorance of the American literary/political context, of which Bellow was an integral part, places his argument about the nostalgia of voters for a powerful elite, read authoritarian political leadership, where?

That ‘where’ is manifested in his rhetorical failure, in his carefully constructed argument, predicated on political misdirection: Neo-Liberalism failed in 2008, and the watershed of that Crash. Allied with the ignominious failure of  the  Neo-Liberal Elites to address that failure, and the problems that have manifested themselves, up until the present.

In the American political context this was demonstrated by the Podesta e mails, that  proved to be the undoing of the Corporatist Democrat Hillary Clinton.  And her confederates Podesta, Donna Brazile,Debbie Wassermann-Schultz, Robby Mook,  Jennifer Palmieri,  Amanda Renteria, Huma Abedin. The New Democrats lost in the Rust Belt, because of the utter corruption of the Party, as those leaked e mails proved. This group engaged in a concerted effort to bury the New Deal Insurgency of Bernie Sanders, and succeeded in gaining the popular vote, but lost in the Electoral College.

Ganesh dare not place the blame where it belongs. He places blame on his imagined notion that the voters are subject to a nostalgia for ‘paternalistic government’ ! Truly an astounding assertion, given that The Rebellion against the Elites, ballyhooed at the Financial Times, was, in effect, a rebellion against that dead end of Neo-Liberalism. The Mainstream parties like New Labour and the New Democrats had long since surrendered to the mirage of the Free Market Delusion. While the  Republicans were/are lost in a nostalgia for untrammeled white male power, dubbed ‘Originalism’, when it is, in fact, the political exhumation of the Dixiecrats.

Mr. Ganesh’s focus is on ‘The West’, that gives him ample space to wander, chatter and to pick and choose his miscreants: Trump, Le Pen, the Brexit quislings. That becomes the great empty rhetorical space in which Mr. Ganesh will pour his usual bile and spleen, on the abstraction of ‘voters’ that wins the loyalty of his coterie of acolytes. Not to forget Ganesh lapse into vulgar pop psychology:

They see modern elites as lax parents, not strict ones, unconscionably passive during the past few decades of foreign economic competition and breakneck social change.

Mr. Ganesh’s  rhetoric comes to one of its many denouements in these two sentences:

To read about the architects of that era is to bathe in shameless, seigneurial elitism. The economist John Maynard Keynes, the diplomats Henry Kissinger and George Kennan, Robert Schuman and other founders of the European project.

One is in awe of this first sentence, steeped in Ganesh’s trademark of withering contempt, in full fledged bravura mode. But where is the great father of the EU cartel  Jean Monnet?

Yet the real villains are given cover by the Ganesh Chatter: the New Labour of Tony Blair and the Tories, have been washed clean of any well deserved taint, by this professional political dramaturge. Who exalts ‘the brute realities of the market’ and the political sadomasochism of the ‘voters’. With the assistance of the un-lamented political reactionary Mr. Bellow.

Almost Marx


Mid Pacific Risk,

Thank you for your comment. ‘Your protracted intellectual peacocking’ might just be called thinking, if you weren’t busy practicing that same art, with a certain éclat!  As does Mr. Ganesh, except he lapses into the use of political bile and spleen, that dissolves any insight that his thoughts might offer, into extended vituperation, against his political antagonists. Mr. Ganesh fails to comprehend the various shades that polemic is capable of expressing, its nuanced use eludes him, his contempt leads the way.

On the question of Bellow, his 1964 book ‘Herzog’, which I read sometime in 1965, featured long passages in French. As I recall my frustration of not being a reader of French. He seems rather obviously to be paying court to the very respectable bourgeois critics i.e. WASP’s:

 ‘National Book Award for Fiction[3] and the The Prix International. TIME magazine named it one of the 100 best novels in the English language since “the beginning of TIME” (1923 to 2005).[4][5]


‘Bellow could be read as commenting on the irony of a Vox Populi being the virtual incarnation of WASP privilege.’

Bellow was a rather unimaginative Conservative, his ally being the notorious Professor Bloom, so I find the notion that he could, or might, see the irony of FDR being the voice of Vox Populi – although this idea has an obvious appeal, in fact it has achieved the status as an observation on the conundrum of The New Deal leader- as a reader of Bellow I find he was a writer of demotic fiction, he is in no way a Jamesian. I find the notion of Bellow as ironist unconvincing.

The irony continues to the present, where many of us watched in deep amazement at a flamboyant walking justification for confiscatory estate taxes from New York City who connected with disaffected working class voters.

The above reference is to Mayor de Blasio? a committed Clinton supporter, a committed Neo-Liberal in Reformist Drag.

Your lapse into Pop Psychoanalysis seems like the anachronism that it is!

Americans will learn the brutal lesson of childhood: Daddy isn’t all powerful and cannot protect you.

The New Dealers like Warren and Sanders can lead the way without the paternalism, if not, then the Greens and the Libertarians will make the political case for a New Deal for the 21st Century.  In answer to the ignominious failure of the Neo-Liberal Dispensation.



About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.' https://www.lrb.co.uk/v15/n20/perry-anderson/diary
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