janan.ganesh@ft.com confects a History made to measure of American Populism, in an astounding 841 words. Political Cynic takes the measure of his intervention.

Mr. Ganesh provides a very particular history made to measure of the rise of American Populism.  And in just 841 words! Here are two paragraphs of the most suggestive parts of his narrative, his political panorama is almost rendered in CinemaScope:

We are living through the hasty promotion of an important historical event to a totally seminal one. Modern populism was not born in 2008. Like the raising of a vein, the crash just brought to the surface what was already extant and pumping. Mr Trump weaponised a popular suspicion of political elites that long predates Lehman. The root of that suspicion is not all that mysterious.

For a sense of the speed of the collapse, consider John McCain’s naval career. He enlisted in 1958. By the time he returned from wartime capture in 1973, the public realm had soured unrecognisably (and, it would turn out, unsalvageably). The Republican senator’s death last week deprives America of much: a one-man reason to trust politicians and a connection to a war that explains, far more than the crash, why so few do.


The number of walk-ons by American historical figures, events,place names as stand-ins , even American movies  should provide rhetorical ballast to this propaganda predicated on that old standby misdirection:

Lehman Brothers, Year Zero, Donald Trump , Steve Bannon, Rightwing populists, Barack Obama, Pew Research Center, Lyndon Johnson, Watergate, Republican, Democrat, Vietnam war, John McCain,  Wall Street ,  Vietnam, Badlands and The Deer Hunter, Hollywood, Democratic national convention in Chicago, Norman Mailer, North Vietnamese , Americans

Even with this collection of references the Populism that Mr. Ganesh attempts to ‘diagnose’ is outside this pseudo-historian’s metier. Mr. Ganesh attempts in his meager 841 words to prove, to his American readers, that he is not just another historical arriviste.

What is absent is the fact of the rise of Neo-Liberalism, as the preferred economic/political/ethical frame,  in both the Republican Party, Ronald Reagan, the New Democrats, Bill Clinton. The New Democrat’s  desertion of its New Deal legacy, led by the utterly mendacious Clinton’s and their fellow travelers. There agenda was ‘Reaganite’ to is core, and their economic instrument was the ‘Reform‘ offered by:

The Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act (GLBA), also known as the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999, (Pub.L. 106–102, 113 Stat. 1338, enacted November 12, 1999) is an act of the 106th United States Congress (1999–2001). It repealed part of the Glass–Steagall Act of 1933, removing barriers in the market among banking companies, securities companies and insurance companies that prohibited any one institution from acting as any combination of an investment bank, a commercial bank, and an insurance company. With the bipartisan passage of the GrammLeachBliley Act, commercial banks, investment banks, securities firms, and insurance companies were allowed to consolidate. Furthermore, it failed to give to the SEC or any other financial regulatory agency the authority to regulate large investment bank holding companies.[1] The legislation was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.[2]


The Depression of 2008 was a direct result of the failure of that Neo-Liberalism’s faith in the Reform offered by the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act ,  allied to the greed of Wall Street actors. Not to forget Obama’s de facto pardoning of these malicious economic/political actors. This is just the beginning point of an honest consideration of the ‘why’ of the rise of the dreaded ‘Populist Menace’, and its ‘popular suspicion of political elites’ as Mr. Ganesh presents it. This potential ‘why’ is beyond the ken of Mr. Ganesh, but is the servant of his propaganda intervention.

Political Cynic

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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