Let’s Crush the Woke Plutonomy! An Interview + Review of The Populist’s Guide to 2020: A New Right and New Left are Rising by Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti

Yves here. For the record, the word plutonomy became part of the lexicon (and may even have been coined) by Citigroup in a series of reports to its asset management clients in 2005. They argued that a world ordered to suit the whims of the top 1% was well underway. The only thing that might get in the way was that the other 99% had the force of numbers on its side. Michael Moore devoted a section of his Capitalism: A Love Story to these documents.

By John Siman

As I reread in his book Hate Inc. Matt Taibbi’s analysis of how the corporate media have worse-than-cynically divided our nation into mutually-despicable but highly profitable  demographic silos, and as I await the publication of Thomas Franks forthcoming book  The People, No!, which will, I believe, be about the grim suppression of Populism in American history, I have been utterly surprised by the sudden appearance — as if out of nowhere — of Krystal Ball and SaagarEnjeti’s delightful YouTube show  Rising, which every day now dispenses brilliantly produced, multiple doses of actual Populist conversation. Glenn Greenwald, who Krystal says is one of her heroes, calls it the super-perky radical trans-ideological 21st-century subversive sequel to the Katie Couric/Matt Lauer Morning Today Show in its heyday minus all that unpleasantness.” The People, Yes!

And,  mirabile dictu, Krystal and Saagar’s  Rising originates from within the most bubblicious confines of the D.C. bubble— their studio is literally on K Street — how is this even possible? How, that is, can their show even be permitted to air in the 21st-century USA, where next-level corporate control requires, as Taibbi has explained, the manufacture of media products as strictly standardized and aggressively dumbed-down as McDonalds food products are, and in an eco-system even more deleterious to the nations health?

Perhaps Krystal and Saagar’s new right + new left friendship presages the actual rising up of a new Populist movement in the USA, out of the long-awaited ruins of neoliberal oligarchy. Well, that might be too much to hope for, but in any event their appearance on the political scene is good news coming at a time when I, for one, thought that good news had gone extinct.

And to top it all off Krystal and Saagar have just written a book,  The Populists Guide to 2020: A New Right and New Left are Rising. It’s a collection of thirty-nine of their YouTube essays (twenty written by the nominal Democrat Krystal and nineteen by the nominal Republican Saagar; all thirty-nine were broadcast between last July and this January), with some useful updates and analysis added. Their essays are arranged not chronologically, but according to four rather audacious themes:

Core Rot (the ugly result of the elites’ utter betrayal of the American working class)

Media (why most all Americans hate it)

Identity (understood as a woke intersectionalist weapon effecting societal division)

Theories of Change (Krystal and Saagar really are envisioning a working-class revolution)

Each of these four themes is introduced by a short, insightful, jointly-written essay. The whole thing weighs in at a very lively and readable 243 pages, and it’s a remarkable feat of modern publishing that so many of the essays in the printed-on-paper book had so recently been broadcast on the Internet — about a quarter of them since Thanksgiving.  Soon after its launch on February 8, Krystal and Saagar’s book made it into the top ten on Amazon’s list of new releases.

And while their book was selling so briskly on Amazon, their YouTube viewership continued its months-long increase: “Rising” reached 300,000 subscribers in February. (The now-venerable Jimmy Dore Show has about 700,000 subscribers.) “The runaway success of our show and of so many others on YouTube,” they write, “is a direct indictment of the mainstream media” (p. 82).

So then, if we really are witnessing the  risingof a new Populist movement, it seems that it will be characterized by media content of sparklingly high production value and remarkably quick turnaround. Leonidas Lafayette Polk and William Jennings Bryan would be duly impressed.

Indeed Krystal is so TV-polished and camera-ready that when I first saw her electronic image on Rising” a few months ago (I had never seen her in the three years during which she was a co-host on MSNBC), I instinctively assumed that she would be just another plastic mouthpiece of official Neoliberal opinion, another “super-perky” (pace  Glenn Greenwald) robot for the National Security State. Saagar, similarly, who is a decade younger than Krystal, presents himself as a very cheerful, very well-adjusted, very well-dressed (awesome ties!) D.C. politics nerd and describes himself as a conservative Trump-supporter who vehemently opposes socialism. And yet, when they come together, they write and say things like this: “The old order will die. It is dying before our eyes. The only question is how long before a new order is born” (p. 23).

They are intellectuals, and they are writing from the gut. Here is a sentence from Saagar’s essay, “My Dire Warning for the American Right”: “[W]e need to turn an eye toward our decrepit city in Washington to highlight just how exactly we got to a point where polling indicates that almost half the American public wants to burn our institutions to the ground” (p. 194).

Both Krystal and Saagar, I should point out here, are fascinated with the mechanics of the New Deal, with all the details of how Franklin Roosevelt was able to engineer a revolutionary transformation of the federal bureaucracy. Krystal, in fact, has written a book in which she envisions a new New Deal, Reversing the Apocalypse: Hijacking the Democratic Party to Save the World, and Saagar gave us a mini-lecture about the insider political genius whom he calls “the chief architect of the New Deal,” Thomas Tommy the Cork” Corcoran. Saagar’s point was to illustrate just how gargantuan a task it is to reinvent government. It’s something he obviously thinks about a lot.

Also salient: Krystal was born and raised and continues to live in — and to commute to K Street from — rural King George County, Virginia. She retains the good manners of someone who grew up in the South. Saagar, the son of immigrants, grew up in College Station, Texas. Flyover country. My point here is that they both have, in real life, rubbed shoulders with actual … deplorables.

And so it is altogether fitting that it is from Krystal and Saagar that I have learned the revolutionary word plutonomy. It looks like plutocracy, like a word from Ancient Greek, but it isn’t. It is, as we shall see, more badass than that.

Back in Ancient Athens, when Plato and Xenophon were recalling how Socrates had described the type of regime in which private wealth determines public power, Plato used the word oligarchy and Xenophon the word plutocracy. Two words, but a single outcome: the rich rule and the poor are disenfranchised. And so Plato in The Republicobserves the fundamental political failure of oligarchy/plutocracy: it causes a city to be divided against itself, into a city of the rich and a city of the poor, which, though they continue to dwell together in the same spot, continuously plot against one another.

And what then becomes of these disenfranchised poor? In The Constitution of the AtheniansAristotle presents us with a worst-case scenario, but a historical one nevertheless:

[In the time before Solon, Aristotle writes] the Athenian regime was in all respects oligarchical, and the poor and their wives and their children were enslaved to the rich, and they were called Dependents and Sixth-part-sharecroppers, for it was under a sixth-part rent that they farmed the fields of the rich — all the land was owned by the rich. And if they ever failed to pay their rents, both they and their children were liable to arrest….

So much for economic plight of the disenfranchised poor — what of the ruling rich, the oligarchs /plutocrats? Well, they get richer and richer of course. And this is why plutonomybecomes for us an essential term of analysis: it denotes the economic arrangements that arise naturally from oligarchic/plutocratic political arrangements.

Plutonomymeans that wealth grows only for the wealthy. It’s the economy of a plutocracy. And so plutonomy is not, as we have seen, an ancient word, but a modern portmanteau word, a fusion of  plutocracy + economy.

And Krystal and Saagar describe the dynamic of plutonomy with vividness, as in this passage from their book:

 Our entire economy has become increasingly oriented around the special flowers of Richard Florida’s so-called “Creative Class” [Thomas Frank uses the term “Liberal Class”; during our conversation Saagar used the term “Cosmopolitan Class,” and Krystal the term ”Professional/ Managerial Class”; I am old enough to remember “Yuppie Scum”]. These are the lucky, mostly college-educated, types to whom the entire low-wage service community caters: the ones who came mostly from big cities or were identified as “special” in their small towns and put on the college track. They are the Pete Buttigiegs of the world, whose privilege and particular type of intellect gained them access to the elite world and all the stamps of elite privilege that come with it: the people who expect their sustainable [!] sushi to be available at 2 a.m. and for whom an entire army of exhausted and underpaid workers has been marshaled (p. 22).

Michael Hudson describes plutonomy with statistics: “[A]ll the growth in GDP has accrued to the wealthiest 5 Percent since the Obama Recession began in 2008. Obama bailed out the banks instead of the 10 million victimized junk-mortgage holders. The 95 Percents share of GDP has shrunk” (The Democrats’ Quandary – In a Struggle Between Oligarchy and Democracy, Something Must Give). The rich get richer, and the poor get uninsured gig jobs serving the rich.

Krystal told me that she learned the word plutonomy in the context of Wall Street, from an analyst who communicated the message: “Look. All the money to be made comes from catering to the plutocrats — with luxury goods, with luxury experiences, with luxury services. That’s where all the money is to be made because no one else has anything.”

She continued: “So our whole economy has become a plutonomy, where you have a small slice of people who are very fortunate, who have their credentials and their ticket to the elite class, and they can get their sushi on demand delivered to them by Uber Eats at 2 a.m., and the whole society is set up to cater to their every whim and desire. And they are the only people who in their workplace and in their life are actually treated like human beings.”

“The Meritocracy,” Saagar interjected.

“The Parasite Class,” I thought to myself.

Krystal resumed: “Which is why I responded so much to Andrew Yang’s message — the core of his message — which was very simple: that everyone deserves to be treated with humanity, like a human being. But that is the opposite of how our economy is structured.”

Plutonomy is so bad that Socrates and Plato and Xenophon and Aristotle didn’t have a word for it.

How in heaven’s name then is it being shoved down America’s throat? One way is by its being sugar-coated with a gooey layer of identity politics, of intersectional wokeness. Krystal and Saagar write:

There is genuine racism, sexism and hatred in this country — bigotry of all kinds. But what animates American politics right now is not a true desire to make America a place free of the systemic legacy of racist and sexist policies: what animates American politics is the desire for elites to cling to power, engage in rent-seeking behavior and hog all the spoils of  plutonomyfor themselves. Identity politics is the sop thrown to working class people to keep them in line [italics mine]. It keeps us all running around yelling: “Racist!” and “Sexist!” and “Un-American” at each other rather than noticing the way that we are all united in a shared struggle” (pp. 134-135).

With the phrase “united in a shared struggle” Krystal and Saagarget to the heart of the matter. For the most horrible of the many horrors of identity politics is its rejection of the very possibility of human solidarity. Oligarchy, as Plato described it, was bad enough, for it causes a city to divide against itself, to divide into two hostile factions, but woke identity politics divides and divides again, into as many hostile factions as there are countable identitarian intersections. And so, just as plutonomy arises naturally from oligarchy, so likewise does a truly anti-human viciousness arise from identity politics.

The horrors of identity politics and woke anti-capitalism can perhaps best be fought by means of satire, as Andrew Doyle has been doing with his Twitter character, Titania McGrath, an imaginary “radical intersectionalist poet committed to feminism, social justice and armed peaceful protest.” He and his colleague Douglas Murray are the two greatest heroes of the war against woke in the UK, and I have often wondered who has risen up to their level of moral and intellectual valor here in the USA. In an important way, Krystal and Saagar’s critique of identity politics is even more powerful than Doyle and Murray’s, for while the two Englishmen write from a sensibility that is at its core literary — Doyle has a doctorate in Elizabethan literature from Oxford and Murray wrote a major biography of Oscar Wilde while still an undergraduate there — Krystal and Sagaar have politics in their bone marrow. They are therefore able to analyze the monstrosity that is the woke corporation, to unveil the intersectionof identity politics with plutonomy. “So the big insight I got from your book,” I told them, “is that Woke is the next level of union busting.”

“I agree,” Saagar said, “I think it’s a pernicious attempt — I don’t think it started out this way, [but now] corporations realize that they can buy off key elements of the left by sponsoring critical race theory and identity stuff, and by using that they can basically not answer for any of the structural and economic damage that they have caused to American workers. I don’t think it started out this way … I don’t think these critical race theorists — [for example] I don’t think the founder of the 1619 Project, Nikole Hannah-Jones, was ever like, Yeah, I’m gonna get funded by the Shell Corporation, but, because she thinks that race is the fundamental divide amongst Americans, taking that money is fine…. 1619 to me encapsulates all of this: The New York Timestelling a bunch of upper-middle-class white liberals that they’re actually fundamentally racist from the very beginning, and that race in and of itself — and not class — is the primary dividing line in this country.”

Saagar continued: “And what I would say is: — This is the worst possible thing you can actually do to a lot people of color in this country … who are disproportionately affected by class-based policies, which destroy unions, which go after wages. I mean, who do you think is affected when we have union-busted jobs or low-wage work, which is fundamentally catering to an upper class, to a Cosmopolitan Class which is diverse in name only?” (The contrived diversity of what Saagar here calls the “Cosmopolitan Class” is one of Adolph Reed’s most insightful observations — I asked about this, and of course Krystal and Saagar admire Reed’s work, and of course they’ve had him on the show.)

“Yes,” Krystal agreed, “it’s a way to keep the working class divided so they do not accumulate power — because there’s many more of them than there are of the elites. But the Republican Party uses white identity, and the Democratic Party uses: Look, at least we’re not racists like those guys! — to be able to keep people in the tent so they can center the party around the interests of the Professional / Managerial Class.”

Krystal paused and continued: “Identity politics to me means taking something that is real — bigotry — and weaponizing it to maintain the status quo.”

“Yeah,” I said.

Back to Krystal: “To say: Look, if we have a gay millennial mayor, we’ve made progress, even when he’s pushing the same status quo politics. Or — having the first black president. We have made progress. And I don’t want to say that that’s nothing. It is something. It does matter for children to be able to look up and see a black man as our president. But does it really make you feel better if it’s like Kamala Harris prosecuting you as a single parent for your kids being truant or possessing marijuana? Does it matter to you if it’s black woman who did that? No! Personally, my aspirations are much greater than changing the gender ratio or racial makeup of, of — “

“ — of the Fortune 500!” Saagar interjected.

“Great!” Krystal said, and we all laughed, “We have our first female CIA torturer. Fantastic!”

Ha! What fun it is to visit K Street! The People, Yes! When, a year or so ago, I met Thomas Frank at a similarly bubblicious location and told him that I had travelled there from West Virginia, he entertained me with an anecdote about a trip he had once made westward across West Virginia: each time he crossed a mountain ridge, he told me, the only station he could pick up on his car radio would be broadcasting the Rush Limbaugh Show. Then he’d be crossing over the next ridge, and the station would fade out … only to be replaced by a successor station broadcasting the same episode of Rush on the same schedule. So up and down, up and down, again and again, over a couple hundred miles, Thomas Frank was able to listen to an entire episode of Rush Limbaugh virtually uninterrupted from a half a dozen or more West Virginia radio stations, operating a sort of aural relay race.

Maybe the Thomas Frank Phenomenon works in reverse too, for as I headed home from the bubble, before I crossed back over the mountain and into West Virginia, I heard a broadcast of a new NSO recording of Dvořák‘s “New World Symphony.” As I listened I thought of Thomas Frank progressing happily up and down those West Virginia mountains, and then I thought, Yes, I am hearing an intimation of a better post-woke American futureand this future will be like Dvořáks music moving seamlessly back and forth between echoes of Beethoven and echoes of old slave spirituals. Dvořák, I was thinking, had seen what could go wrong in America, but he also had seen what could go right: pure beauty set free from social class or caste or race. America was — is — the place where that can happen. Maybe, I thought, Dvořáks symphony could be the theme song for a new, a rising Populist movement. A half century ago Neil Armstrong took a recording of it to the moon, you know.

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53 comments

  1. Carl

    I’m relatively new to the show (couple of months) but I gotta agree, it’s a fantastic creation and I do wonder how it managed to get on the air and stay on it. The hosts’ insights are consistently excellent and the guests are a breath of fresh air from the sclerotic MSM. It’s my “evening news on tv” that reminds me of watching the news when I was growing up. Thanks for the book review; I’m interested.

    Reply
    1. coboarts

      Astro turf. The real populist revolt will be demarcated by the destruction of cell towers, the sabotage of water and electricity to the zones of human habitation/smart cities/prison colonies. Anything that intends to “take away the power” from those who currently control it, but to keep it structurally intact is just a fiction to distract from the real potential for destruction. That’s the threat that Zager & Evans, or whoever they are, should be concerned about. At least I would be, if so privileged.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izQB2-Kmiic

      Reply
      1. Carey

        ahh, another worldly explainer. What are *you* doing to make things better?

        Ball and Enjeti are doing good work with confines. Bravo.

        Reply
  2. Clive

    I don’t begrudge for one second Ball’s and Enjeti’s rightly motivated campaign against anti-working class woke’dom.

    It did, though, miss out on several other fulcrums apart from identity politics which the liberal-ish elite use to provoke working class on working class conflict. Here’s just some of the things which the working class are supposed to accept (apart from race, gender and sexuality — amongst other — themed arguments) lest they be accused of deplorability:

    Open borders
    Migration without controls
    Internationalism
    Denouncing populism
    Denouncing nationalism
    Denouncing national identities
    Welfare systems without checks and balances

    The scorn visited upon anyone in the working class who dares question these Inviolable Truths Of The Genuine Progressive get the same treatment from the authoritarian liberals as they do if they say that minorities given workplace equality without giving consideration to what workplace we’re talking about isn’t good enough, or same-sex marriage isn’t on its own sufficient to produce genuine social change in the absence of economic rights, or that Meghan Markle is a no-good money-grabbing grifter.

    Try telling you don’t much care for one, or more, of any of the items on my above list to, say, the staff of politics.co.uk and you’ll likely get labelled a “low information voter” who needs to be set straight.

    The need for the liberal-ish elite to force the working class to worship its pet ideological golden calves — or else be ostracised from the circle of the working class which is worthy of being “saved” — is just as much of a problem as forcing the working class to pray at the alter of identity politics.

    I’ve followed Krystal for a long, long time and could happily listen to her all day. But I’m unsure why she doesn’t feel able to step onto this kind of territory.

    Reply
    1. divadab

      @Clive – reducing immigration is a taboo – because the owners demand (and get) massive numbers of low-wage slave-class immigrant workers to do the scut work. In the USA there are over 12 million undocumented workers, effectively a slave class. Having worked in ag processing I know they are hard workers and docile – because they have no real protection in law and they come from countries where they are the poorest of the poor and $10 an hour is a huge raise.

      The owners have always sent away for more immigrants whenever the native workers get uppity – the owners have no sense of obligation or responsibility to the native working class, rather viewing them as a deplorable racist herd of stupid cattle to be exploited. This is true in the USA and in the UK and also in now apparently in Germany. And the owners now have another powerful tool to continue their battle with the working class – China. Is it not interesting that among the top ten richest families in the USA the Walmart Waltons made their money as an agent of the Communist Chinese. Try and find something not made in China at Walmart and I think you will agree. This is a shockingly recent phenomenon – in the last 25 years – and these greedy people have sold out the native working class at every opportunity. And Brexit, and Trump are the backlash for now. The guillotine is a very real possibility if times get hard.

      In the long run deglobalization will happen for a combination of reasons but mostly because it relies on unsustainable non-renewable energy consumption and has massive environmental effects which will set in motion massive migrations and wars. NOt to mention pandemics. The four horsemen are saddled up and they’re on the trail.

      Reply
      1. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

        Lots of good points. I sell wine for a living. It’s all domestic, but I did sell wine from Spain, Italy and France. I’m well aware of how gruelling it is working vineyards all day in the hot Andalucian or Tuscan sun. So if you’re an Italian farmer, you send you children off to uni to get whatever they call an MBA over there so they can worm their way into the export trade. Meanwhile you hook up with some squirrely dude who will find a lot of guys from Mali to work your fields doing the grunt work. Or you have them operate the bottling machinery if you think they’re too brainless to work with plants. It’s just like American ag in the west. This draws many hundred thousands more to take a chance on riding a leaky dinghy across the Mediterranean on the off chance some farmer will give them the nod. I’ve seen this system at work in Portland- America’s WOKE-est city.

        Reply
        1. divadab

          Well I have a story for you about a grape-growing family of my acquaintance in California. When grapes got over-planted in the late nineties, and a glut hit the market, prices cratered. That’s how we got two-buck chuck. Well prices got so low that this family, all of whose children were at university, did not have the money to pay workers, even illegals. SO the kids ALL came home from college and worked the farm for a year for nothing in order to save the farm, and they did. FOr several years they operated at very lean levels as prices took a while to recover.

          Anyway, yes farming is hard work. So’s anything worthwhile. It would sure be nice if it paid more.

          Reply
        2. Kurt Sperry

          More than once in Italy I’ve been asked if I want a job picking olives or grapes just walking by.

          Reply
    2. Off The Street

      Not just scorn for the working class, but for anyone daring to inquire, think and come to different, entirely rational conclusions based on evidence. And not just from putative Progressives but from Alt-Right or numerous other quarters across on the spectrum.

      Here are some common, very broad-brush themes:
      Dem pols say they are in it to help, and they cynically stir up voters but grift away to get theirs.
      Rep pols say they are in it to protect, and they meanly stir up voters to maintain a false memory of life.

      I am encouraged by what I see and hear from so many younger people. They are creative and energetic, and they are far more likely to cut through BS as they just don’t have time for it. Think of that as a survival technique and a living protest to achieve a better life for themselves and their communities. They aren’t buying into the stories being peddled, and want to make their way in a life to be well and fully lived instead of being patronized, manipulated or catalogued.

      The column publication is an interesting counter-point to the notice about Jack Welch. His neutron bomb efforts reduced humans to factor inputs, reducible expenses and consumer marketing targets. He became a grotesque celebrity of sorts and got so much adulation from the usual suspects that many felt compelled to copy those GE Crotonville training program ways. Other companies adapted his methods to expand the application, and right-sized their way through communities. See how that played out later at GE via Immelt, Wendt and their acolytes.

      Reply
    3. Redlife2017

      In my experience with the Left in the Labour Party, they very much get lost in the Wokeness of it all. They are internationalist to such an extreme that I’ve had people say that there is no such thing as being British. It’s like they are ashamed of not being a member of a world Kumbaya government. It’s a weird kind-of-self-loathing that’s expressed via Wokeness. They would rather argue about not having enough BAME Councillors then to deal with the fact that they actually are deficient in working-class representation (my council has over 20% BAME, but VERY few working class).

      And on a related note – I found out that BAME (Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic) also now means anyone who was not born in Britain who lives here or was raised by immigrants. That includes white wealthy people such as myself born in the US. I was floored by that. Seriously, I understand why straight white British-born cis-dudes are left feeling like they aren’t welcome anywhere. The opposite of one bad idea is not necessarily a good idea.

      Reply
      1. divadab

        Right – the solution to the oppression of brown people is not to extend this oppression to white people.

        Reply
        1. Redlife2017

          I look at my comment and I wasn’t very clear. I have no issue (quite the opposite) with getting more BAME people into elected roles. But we also can’t kid ourselves that just because someone is BAME (cough, cough, Priti Patel and Sadiq Khan) doesn’t mean that working class issues (concrete material benefits!) will be at the top of the list for them. Sadiq Khan even has a nice weepy background from the working class but (or and?) is as Tory-light as they come. Please see how he just treated Wandsworth Council for an example of his love of democracy and property developers.

          Excluding straight white dudes from the masses of meetings (and lists) that we have in the Labour Party is a sledgehammer approach to the problem. I see what happens and quite honestly it doesn’t work well. As I noted, the opposite of a bad idea (i.e. white dudes should always be in charge) is not necessarily a good idea (i.e. worrying about gender / ethnic balance without regard for the politics of the person). I’d like to find a slightly better way to get a decent balance of backgrounds with the commitment to concrete material benefits.

          Reply
          1. Kouros

            The exclusion and demonization of white dudes is a feature. They (white dudes of formerly white majority countries) would/could serve as the “strange attractors” of this managed chaotic system we live in (designed to maintain plutonomy) and pick up the fight, the real fight, the bloody minded, grueling, scary, life threatening, “Fight Club”, crazy and intelligent fight that goes to the jugular, military style. So they need to be vilified and made feel under attack and maybe ask for help from the plutocrats…

            Reply
            1. Buckeye

              Yes! As a middle-aged white male I am SICK of the “white male victim” meme. It’s all just a ploy to whip up white men into voting (and violence) in favor of some right-wing politician (Trump) or policy(anti-union, anti-environment, anti-Medicare for all)
              that actually DOES punish white men, Duh!

              Reply
              1. JBird4049

                My fear, something that terrifies me, is the destruction of the progress of equality for all; the Woken Ones use the ongoing, and often very violent, oppression of people of all kinds to ignore, or demonize, the impoverished mass of (white) Americans. This also enables the semi respectable alt-Right and the not so respectable organizations like Stormfront to grow.

                This is a reason why even the old fashioned, outright, and violent hatred of blacks, women, and gays ain’t going away; the hatred is too useful a tool for they ruling class.

                Reply
    4. montanamaven

      Tucker Carlson has had Saager and Jimmy Dore on. I watch Tucker and Jimmy and now have added Krystal and Saager. This populism bashing has been going on since the beginning of our country. I’m reading “The Other Founders” about the voices of the anti-Federalist who were more than a little wary of elite rule even though many of them were elite. They advocated for local jury trials rather than by some far off judges. They worried about a too powerful central government. And not because of racism. Because of having fought a war for independence because of being taxed from afar with no representation. Being governed from a far. But, hey, let’s circle the wagons around dim witted Joe or Hail Caesar Mike.

      Reply
    5. Kasia

      I too appreciate Ball’s and Enjeti’s efforts and agree with your comments. For this alliance to work, specifically the right have to accept climate change and the left immigration restriction. Ball’s comments on immigration are incoherent and dreamy. Enjeti has the theory correct but is too polite. For the concept of the new right, all one has to do is read about, or better yet, actually read the works of Alain de Benoist. For example, he is a strong advocate of degrowth for environmental reasons. The key for the left is to reject the new bourgeois leftism, for example Marcusse, and return to post WW2 Scandinavian social democracy aimed at empowering the working class.

      On Identity Politics, in the US at least, the key principle has to be the the same rules apply to all five major Identity groups, the two underperforming, blacks and latinos, the middling group, whites, and the two overperforming smaller groups, Asians and Jews. What’s allowed for one group has to be allowed for all, and vice versa. If over-representation is bad for one group; it is bad for all groups. If under-representation is bad for one group; it is bad for all groups.

      With these ideas in place a left/right alliance is possible.

      Reply
      1. Igor Slamoff

        “Immigration restriction”, he said. Talking about “immigrants” in general is a patently fraudulent terminological convention. There is only one group of migrants whose collective behavior, to varying degrees, is largely motivated by an ideology of conquest and domination. Consequently a clear distinction must be made at all times between this group and all others.

        Reply
    1. David in Santa Cruz

      I had stopped watching television “news and comment” years ago. A YouTube show isn’t exactly “television” but I’m a regular watcher (and subscriber) to Rising, although I intend to buy Krystal and Saagar’s book from my locally-owned independent bookseller rather than on ScAmazon.

      I suspect that some of the UK commenters haven’t watched the show. Saagar is quite firm in his principled conservative opposition to destructive Woke orthodoxies, such as open borders and globalization. Saagar and Krystal are perfect foils for one another.

      I found the show after it was linked by NC, so thanks Yves, Lambert, and Jerrilynn!

      Reply
  3. pjay

    Thank you for this. Their show is great. It should be publicized far and wide. I’m curious as to how long it will be allowed to continue.

    Reply
  4. Mikel

    Populism, Inc….K street says it all.

    And this:

    “…they both have, in real life, rubbed shoulders with actual … deplorables.”

    This project may be about crushing “wokeness” – that is the total target and not actually an elite – but it has nada to do with “working class solidarity.:

    Reply
    1. Dan

      This project may be about crushing “wokeness” – that is the total target and not actually an elite – but it has nada to do with “working class solidarity.

      Working class solidarity doesn’t play well in suburbia. I don’t think too many “working class” Americans are watching Rising on The Hill. Assuming the show is on the up and up, I think it’s primarily an attempt to open the minds of people in spheres of influence to the complete inanity of the political scene. It’s an attempt to change the narrative within the power structure at least a little.

      Of course, the purpose of the show may simply be to provide a release valve for people’s angst. Any energy that may have been funneled towards substantive action instead gets cynicised and ultimately dissipated by tuning into Krystal and Saagar. Late night shows like Colbert serve the same purpose.

      Reply
      1. Ian Ollmann

        This is really the crux of it. Being not a minority, I’m not often there when there is racism going on or at least don’t notice it. What I do notice is a pervasive sense that the poor deserve it, and that if you look poor (probably including minorities) then maybe you are poor and not worth 2c. Racism and anti racism misses the point for me. I feel like if the average Archie Bunker slowly sliding into poverty wasn’t worried about his impending doom, he wouldn’t feel the need to blame it on someone else. It is a lot easier to embrace prosperity than take the blame for your own failure.

        It all comes down to fear in the end. Fear of poverty, fear of your own incompetence. How much more patriotic and accepting would we all feel if we felt the system was working for us? (It works for me, but I realize I’m very much a minority on this.) We don’t need a revolution. We just need the powers that be, especially the left to give a damn about the average guy. Clinton sold the poor down the river years ago. Obama didn’t lift a finger. Bernie might do something, but really he needs the Democratic Party to take the clothespin of their collective noses and embrace their base. Trump sure didn’t do anything to help, but then I think he only ever intended to use the anger, not wipe the tears away. The anger suits him. Why not have more?

        Part of the problem is that the best and brightest are not working to make the world a better place for everyone. A lot of them are working on value non-added plans to scrape pennies out of the system by the boat load and run off with the profits. It’s too bad we can’t find a place for them in government. Improving government is the low hanging fruit on the societal tree. I don’t believe that starving it and sabotaging it does anyone any good.

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  5. a different chris

    Great article, but:

    >How, that is, can their show even be permitted to air in the 21st-century USA,

    There is a bit of misunderstanding there. Censorship is so 1950’s. The new way is to allow those voices to be heard, but then simultaneously both amplify contrasting voices (much more reasonable sounding ones than Limbaugh, but also Limbaugh) to sow some doubt and then co-opt the most harmless parts of the message.

    So you get “well Krystal has a good point and is certainly a genuinely good person! – but she’s a bit naive on how the world works* yet we can work with some of her ideas for sure.”

    And the whole thing gets watered down and useless. Way better than actually suppressing the message.

    *see exactly that playbook with Ms. Thunberg.

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    1. pjay

      This would normally be my instinctive response as well. And I’m pretty sure the “liberal” vs. “conservative” format helped get them a spot on The Hill, for the reasons you state here. But there is something about the show that makes it — potentially — a little more potent. First, the criticisms leveled by both commentators are so *specific* and spot on; not like the usual pablum served up by supposedly “liberal” media pundits. Second, they clearly emphasize *class* based interests — and *not* in the fake Limbaugh way: pointy-headed liberal elite vs. “the people.” Rather, they articulate this *accurately* — “pointy-headed liberals” as servants of the plutocracy. And third, there is nothing more dangerous to the plutocracy than an *authentic* populism, where “left” and “right” populists recognize their shared *class* interests. This is what makes their format so much different from the fake Crossfire-type shows of the past.

      I’m still cynical, as you are. But I do think this show has slipped through the cracks — at least so far.

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    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Sorry, you seem to have missed the aggressive efforts to kill the left (and right) by demonetizing YouTube channels, severely down-ranking sites in Google searches (so they can’t attract new readers even on topics where they have an important body of work, like this site on Brexit, private equity fees, and CalPERS) and flagging them on FB as questionable or worse.

      I’m on a panel on this very topic of media censorship….which will happen when the conference happens, which is now coronavirus-dependent.

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  6. DJG

    I also find Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti to be refreshing, insightful, and–somehow–always spontaneous. I realize that the show is scripted, but the two have a great dialogue going.

    The stress on class analysis of our political ills means that Ball veers to the left wing of the Democratic Party (if that–she seems more like nonpartisan left). Enjeti may be the conservative, but he’s so skeptical and perceptive that he is more like those homeless conservatives who write for The American Conservative magazine, hoping that someone is reading.

    And Enjeti does have groovy ties. Certainly much better than the shiny solid-colored strips tied into over-sized knots favored by the Democrats and Republicans these days. What does it say when Trump and Obama both wore pretty much the same kinds of ties, knotted the same way? A man does reveal himself.

    Which may be why they are fascinated with FDR and the New Deal. Besides having history on his side (a dubious assertion, but bear with me), being a savvy politician, and being comfortable with people who may have been even more talented than he was, FDR possessed an excellent character. Much poise, much insight, much understanding.

    It is interesting that Siman makes a comparison of numbers to the Jimmy Dore show. Jimmy Dore is out there tearing things down. His goal is to dismantle propaganda. Yet it is refreshing that he, too, is hard to pin down politically–witness his appearances on the dreaded Rogan show.

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  7. Carolinian

    Great stuff and exactly what some of us believe. Populism is the way out of our dilemma and calling the people who disagree with you “deplorables” or “toxic” or “morons” (those last two have appeared in NC comments recently) is no way to persuade. The theme of the above is that the common need is far more powerful than the individual desire but only if it can be harnessed as a force. Therefore politics runs on something deeper than intellectual superiority. For all their obsession with “ideas” many on the left don’t seem to get that one.

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  8. Phil in KC

    One of the best articles I’ve read in a long time. I too have enjoyed watching The Rising on Hill.TV but now I have a better understanding of why I enjoy it so much: being freed from the confining barriers of the old political ideologies and fake passions. Much of what they say makes sense–too much sense.

    Meanwhile, Chris Matthews skulked away from his TV show yesterday.

    The times, they are a’changing!

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  9. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

    Maybe the idea is to discover and actual ‘center’ to our politics, as what was so long branded ‘center’ or ‘responsible’ has turned out to be crazed and irresponsible. They should explore some of the weirder byways that people like Gary Lachman or Erik Davis or Hunter Thompson look into. If you want to understand why people get so hot under the collar, you have to understand that more than half a century of Mockingbird Media has left the populace gunshy of any official narrative.

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    1. Donn

      “They should explore some of the weirder byways that people like Gary Lachman or Erik Davis or Hunter Thompson look into.“

      +1

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  10. Kiers

    Corporations WANT two factions, so that each faction can alternate in surges vs the other every right years, chaperoning in THE EXACT SAME corporate agendas on the inside, with different democratic appearing wrappers on the outside. To play the natural oscillation dynamic that extreme bipolarity engenders. Tastes Great/Less Filling.

    Reply
  11. Susan the other

    A snippet from BBC last night (before it was blacked out?) was about the Supreme Court hearing cases on who can and cannot be fired by the Prez. If the bureaucrat was hired by the White House and is expected to support the administration then yes, Trump can fire him/her. If the bureaucrat has a position that is less political and functions as someone who serves to keep the system running smoothly for everyone then no, Trump cannot. Interesting – it was about the flap now about the Consumer Protection thing. Left me thinking that we will be relying on the Supremes more and more these next few years and they will protect some floor for democracy and equality. While in the meantime we settle our differences without bringing down the entire house. The impossibility of continuing on as-usual is going to be interesting to watch – I’m thinking right now about the pandemic and what it will do to the coffers of private “health” insurance. When they are empty and congress tries to bail them out, how will the Supreme Court react? There will be lawsuits, because we have reached that level of rage.

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  12. Plenue

    Ball is good, but I have zero use for Enjeti. Being a less ludicrously insane and retrograde brand of conservative than is the norm now in the US isn’t hard. But all the same the promise of an ‘enlightened’, ‘worker friendly’ conservatism is a dangerous and false siren song.

    I don’t want a Tucker Carlson type in charge anymore than I want the current standard brand of GOP caveman in charge.

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    1. False Solace

      I have to say I don’t understand what Saagar’s positions actually are. I gather that he opposes “socialism” and isn’t keen on idpol — fair enough as long as he isn’t actually bigoted, but what does that mean? Does he oppose universal health care, even though every other developed country has it and 68,000 Americans die every year without it? How does he propose to handle that problem? Yet another conservative telling us the market isn’t free enough to work — we should let them discriminate against preexisting conditions again and it’ll all be fine? I guess I should read the book to find out.

      When Tucker goes off on a rant I know he’s going to carefully choose his examples to pretend Democrats are uniquely bad when Republicans do the exact same things, and I know Tucker has no solutions for any of the problems he accurately identifies. He pines for an age when a white male worker could afford to support a family alone. Well, he doesn’t have any proposals that would get us back to those days, aside from being slightly dubious of free trade. I wonder if Saagar is more of the same, just a cultural conservative flavor populist who reflexively dislikes the scare word “socialism”. In comparison Krystal’s positions are much easier for me to discern. Which makes me feel kinda nervous about this right wing populist shtick. They oppose immigration, OK fine, do you have anything else to offer? Anything? And now we’re back to cultural conservative flavoring and not much else.

      Reply
  13. Copeland

    >what of the ruling rich, the oligarchs /plutocrats? Well, they get richer and richer of course.

    Perhaps a good place to start to fix this, would be to –somehow– enact a maximum level of allowable richness, above which nobody would be permitted to rise.

    I propose 2 million net worth.

    Of course, Improved and Expanded Medicare for All would also have to be the order of the land, to prevent anyone from receiving a 2 million dollar medical bill after being saved from covid19.

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  14. Sound of the Suburbs

    The UK’s poor old Remainers never really stood a chance.

    An inflexible ideology had turned into a joke.
    Free trade, free markets and EU membership will bring us all prosperity.
    Did you mean ten years of austerity?
    Neoliberals are so funny, but no one was laughing.

    Neoliberalism.
    Only the West’s mainstream politicians are left in its thrall.
    The electorate are heading away from the neoliberal centre to find something that might work.
    Some hope is better than none.

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  15. Sound of the Suburbs

    Inequality exists on two axes:
    Y-axis – top to bottom
    X-axis – Across genders, races, etc …..
    The billionaires have been trying to keep the focus on X-axis inequality.

    The liberals are doing good work on the X-axis.
    The billionaires are making good progress increasing inequality on the Y-axis.
    Everyone is happy.
    Clever stuff, if this was actually the plan.

    Reply
  16. Tom Bradford

    I have no idea what “K Street” DC refers to. However here in NZ we have K (Kaurangahape) Road, Auckland which sounds not dissimilar to what I imagine it is.

    “K Road used to be the main shopping district of Auckland with all major department stores having a branch on this street. From around 1965 onwards the street went into decline due to the construction of motorways nearby, meaning many of the local residents were forced to move away from the area. The road suddenly had very low rent and K Road changed from being the main shopping street to a ‘seedy’ red light district.”

    https://nomadsworld.com/k-road-auckland/

    Reply
  17. barrisj

    The unseemly rush of Wall Street financiers, corporate CEOs, media heavyweights, and that ilk to the Biden candidacy after the (overdue) departures of Mayo Pete and Sen. Klobuchar further advances the thesis of the Ruling Class fighting to prevent genuine popular expression from ascending within the increasingly moral bankruptcy that is the Democratic Party. Yes, there indeed is the potential for a Left/Right Popular Alliance, but in a country served only by two major parties, both in thrall to the “plutonomy”, how can such an populist alliance make any sort of electoral headway? There simply are no mechanisms on a practical level to meaningfully coalesce radical opinion into a massive makeover of US politics, certainly not on a national level, and one despairs of this and subsequent election cycles being little more than status quo politics, depressingly crushing the hopes of those of us who still value a government of, by, and for the People.

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  18. Rob Chametzky

    Book recommendations for those really interested in both (American) Populism and the nature
    of our political economy (how it got where it is, including “intersectionality” etc.)

    On Populism

    Lawrence Goodwyn is the ABSOLUTELY required reading. Without Goodwyn, no one can understand American Populism. His “Democratic Promise:The Populist Moment in America” (1976) or his shorter version “The Populist Moment: A Short History of the Agrarian Revolt in America” (1978) corrected the large-scale misunderstanding of American Populism.

    Christopher Lasch’s “The True and Only Heaven: Progress and its Critics” (2013) shows where taking (some of) these ideas VERY seriously led one extraordinarily well-read and original thinker, historian, and writer. He takes Goodwyn’s work as epochal and crucially central to his own thought, which ranges across all of US history and into other countries (UK, France), when relevant.

    On US Political Economy

    Sameul Bowles & Herbert Gintis “Democracy & Capitalism: Property, Community, and the Contradictions of Modern Social Thought” (1986) remains both unmatched and all-but unknown as an explanatory investigation of the development and realities of “liberal democratic capitalist societies”. It is sometimes eerily prescient, which is to say that their analysis was basically correct. What they call the “Madisonian Accommodation” casts light on identity politics and “woke” anti-capitalism, for example. Their analysis of how and why something like “intersectionalism” can, and does, help makes sense of the world, when properly cast (before the fact).

    –Rob Chametzky

    Reply
    1. Sven

      Any Immanuel Wallerstein recent books too :

      – Does Capitalism Have a Future? (2013)
      – The End of the World As We Know It: Social Science for the Twenty-first Century (1999)

      Reply
  19. Ken

    Maybe there needs to be a very serious inquiry into human nature and why throughout history we keep seeing cycles of inequality and regression of social progress, all so that we can break it and move beyond the cycle.

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  20. icancho

    “… may even have been coined by Citigroup…”

    It appears to have a deeper history … OED sayeth:

    plutonomy, n.

    depreciative. Now chiefly historical.

    The science of the production and distribution of wealth. Cf. plutology n.

    1851 J. M. Ludlow Christian Socialism 24 [Political economy] confessing its own limited nature by the mouth of its greatest exponent—by its own showing a mere plutonomy.

    Reply

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