--- Juvenal (late 1st – early 2nd century AD), Satire 10.77–81
“Juvenal here makes reference to the Roman practice of providing free wheat to Roman citizens as well as costly circus games and other forms of entertainment as a means of gaining political power. The Annona (grain dole) was begun under the instigation of the popularis politician Gaius Sempronius Gracchus in 123 B.C.; it remained an object of political contention until it was taken under the control of the autocratic Roman emperors.”
“The term “bread and circuses” is a metonymy or a figure of speech in which a thing or concept is called not by its own name but rather by the name of something associated in meaning with that thing or concept. For instance, "Wall Street" is often used metonymously to describe the U.S. financial and corporate sector, while "Hollywood" is used as a metonym for the U.S. film industry because of the fame and cultural identity of Hollywood, a district of the city of Los Angeles, California, as the historical center of film studios and film stars. The national capital is often used to represent the government or monarchy of a country, such as "Washington" for United States government or "Buckingham Palace" for the monarchy of the United Kingdom.”
This concept of using a phrase or words to convey a connection between two concepts is now the dialect of the propagandist – mostly the American political propagandist. We use the “bread and circuses” metonymy because of its applicability to the American political process – most by the party in power – the Democrats. We’d like to list a few contemporary versions of “bread and circuses”:
Comprehensive immigration – connect illegal immigrants with amnesty and the opportunity to attain citizenship and an implicit voting obligation to the Democrats.
Living wage – bridge low paying entry jobs with buying the votes of citizens who are unable to advance due to a lack of education, talent, skill, motivation or interest.
War on women – faux war to rile up a large voting bloc with a series of trumped up charges against the opposition party for denying them equal wages and access to free contraceptives and abortions.
Debt – the easy answer to all life’s problems. Damn the grandkids – live for today.
It’s all “bread and circuses” and the ultimate goal – buy some votes and brief political power before the collapse. Mr. Axelrod and friends did not invent it and the propaganda that goes along with it to buy votes – all they have done is copy it and with digitalization and mass media distribution get it out to a lot more people than the politicians did back in 123 B.C.!
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" – George Santayana (1863 – 1952). No, that is not a metonymy; that is a fundamental.