Last week, Donald Trump named the former Breitbart chairman and alleged anti-Semite as his chief White House strategist. Liberals immediately called for Bannon’s ouster, arguing that the appointment of a man who (allegedly) didn’t want his daughters attending school with “whiny” Jewish “brats” — and definitely ran a website that celebrated the Confederate flag, wrote that birth control makes women ugly, and derided Bill Kristol as a “renegade Jew” (a slight against both Jews and renegades) — might not be the best way for the president-elect to bring the country together.
But Bannon doesn’t mind being blue America’s boogeyman; he actually thinks it’s funny.
In a new interview with the The Hollywood Reporter’s Michael Wolff, Bannon insists that he isn’t “a white nationalist,” but rather, an “economic nationalist.” However, if liberals want to keep calling him the former, that’s fine — it only makes him more powerful.
“Darkness is good,” Bannon tells Wolff. “Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power. It only helps us when they get it wrong. When they’re blind to who we are and what we’re doing.”
They, here, refers to liberals. And “what we’re doing” refers to Bannon’s vision for how the right wing can consolidate the working-class vote through his brand of reactionary populism.
“The globalists gutted the American working class and created a middle class in Asia. The issue now is about Americans looking to not get fucked over,” Bannon explains. “If we deliver, we’ll get 60 percent of the white vote, and 40 percent of the black and Hispanic vote and we’ll govern for 50 years. That’s what the Democrats missed, they were talking to these people with companies with a $9 billion market cap employing nine people. It’s not reality. They lost sight of what the world is about.”
Bannon’s notions about how the Trump White House should “deliver” will put him at odds with Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and most other congressional Republicans.
“Like [Andrew] Jackson’s populism, we’re going to build an entirely new political movement,” Bannon tells Wolff. “It’s everything related to jobs. The conservatives are going to go crazy. I’m the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. With negative interest rates throughout the world, it’s the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything. Ship yards, iron works, get them all jacked up. We’re just going to throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks. It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan revolution — conservatives, plus populists, in an economic nationalist movement.”
(Andrew Jackson’s populism was, incidentally, genocidally white supremacist.)
Since all indications suggest Trump has few, if any, genuine political convictions, Bannon’s loud advocacy for the kind of Keynesian stimulus that makes “conservatives go crazy” may be significant. The path of least resistance for the president-elect would be to focus on areas of Republican consensus, like Obamacare repeal and immigration enforcement. And thus far, Trump has given every indication that his claims to economic populism are as credible as a degree from Trump University.
The president-elect has filled his transition team with Wall Street executives and lobbyists and indicated that he will repeal the regulation that prevents retirement advisers from fleecing their elderly clients.
It would be easy, then, to see Trump forfeiting his ambitions on infrastructure — or, at least, radically shrinking them. And, in fact, his infrastructure plan as it currently exists, consists largely of a tax giveaway to developers engaged in private projects that are already underway.
But if Bannon is as committed to his vision of right-wing populism as he claims, it’s conceivable that Trump could actually push direct government spending for infrastructure and job creation, in defiance of his party’s fiscal libertarians.
That, however, is a big if. Bannon’s personal Darth Vader is the “crony capitalist” class — a “globalist” elite that sucks up wealth through government-protected rents, and then forces its godless, multicultural values upon the (implicitly white) workers they’ve exploited.
The fact that Bannon has done everything in his power to elect Donald Trump — a man who invites the manager of his “blind trust” to closed-door meeting with foreign leaders — suggests that he may not be wholly sincere in his fulminations against crony capitalism.
Rather, Bannon may simply see this economic nationalist shtick in the same light that he once saw Seinfeld — as a profitable narrative worthy of his investment.
Which would make Bannon less Darth Vader, and more one of the many rich, white old con men preparing to take over 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.