Robert and Diana Mercer, with their daughter Rebekah – all key-players in the Trump campaign most specifically through their significant investment in Cambridge Analytica the data-analytics firm that helped Trump win big in November – held their annual costume party on Saturday. The theme was “Villains & Heroes.”
Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, tongue-firmly-in-cheek, stated that she would be going as her colleague Steve Bannon because “he is a villain to the media and a hero to everyone else.” Conway, appropriately the first female campaign manager in a US election, went as Super Woman. Bannon, also appropriately, just went as himself.
Earlier that week Conway had appeared at the Institute of Politics Forum at the Harvard Kennedy School’s “Campaign for President: The Managers Look at 2016”, on a panel titled “The General Election”, allied with four of her campaign colleagues she was ranged against six of the Clinton campaign team. Bannon was absent from this event although his continuing, and for both the Democrats and wider mainstream media, controversial, impact upon the election and influence upon the future of the United States continued to rebound – his alleged views on race led to a very public confrontation between Conway and Jennifer Palmieri, Clinton’s director of communications, with the latter maintaining that Bannon and Trump had given a platform for white supremacists.
Compounding this, on the same day in the New York Times, Charles Blow wrote:
“And yet Trump has named as his chief strategist Steve Bannon, who helped to rebrand Nazis with a new name, alt-right, which sounds more like a computer command than a batch of fanatical racists clinging desperately to a poisoned idea.”
White Supremacists and Nazis? To quote Conway “do you think I ran a campaign where white supremacists had a platform? Are you going to look me in the face and tell me that?”
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It is finally time for the left to stop this slander – and to look itself in the face.
What we know about Steve Bannon, the new chief strategist and senior counsellor to President-elect Trump and a key influence in the development of evolving “Trumpism” is far removed from white supremacism, white nationalism or nativism.
For Bannon, “Trumpism” represents the first victory of the forces of Christian-capitalism and the final chance to strengthen the moral character of the nation, defend the West from Islamic terrorism and ultimately defend the West from itself.
To understand Bannon, former Goldman Sachs banker, media investor, founding member of the board and now Executive Chairman of Breitbart News, and his Christian economic nationalism, we need to look into his character and the greatest insights we can gain are from a recently released transcript from the Catholic Dignitatis Humanae (Human Dignity) Institute (a Vatican-based human dignity advocacy group) conference from the Summer of 2014 where Bannon engaged in a lengthy question and answer session.
Bannon focused on these areas – the perniciousness of crony capitalism, the secularisation of the West and the rise of Islamic fascism. For the ongoing liberal sceptics out there, he also warned about Putin too. But all are interrelated. The decline of Christian, mass-capitalism and the religious order that created it will lead to the death of the West:
“I believe we’ve come partly off track in the years since the fall of the Soviet Union and we’re starting now in the 21st century, which I believe, strongly, is a crisis both of our church, a crisis of our faith, a crisis of the West, a crisis of capitalism.”
The problems with modern capitalism, Bannon believes, are that we have crony or cartel-capitalism where both the ‘Big State’ and ‘Big Business’ have conspired to create and reinforce wealth for a very small number of people and that this form of capitalism has become far removed from the underlying spiritual and moral foundations of Christianity and is the reverse of enlightened capitalism which should be the ideal model. In emerging markets this situation is the norm rather than the deviation.
For Bannon, historically the best capitalists were Christians or participants in the Jewish faith. The questions the enlightened capitalist should ask are: “what is the purpose of whatever I’m doing with this wealth? What is the purpose of what I’m doing with the ability that God has given us, that divine providence has given us to actually be a creator of jobs and a creator of wealth?”
It was this enlightened capitalism that gave the West – through wide asset ownership – its strong middle class and an aspirant and affluent working class which provided the moral and economic foundations for the West to defeat Nazism in 1945 and support Ronald Reagan in standing-up to and defeating the Soviet Union during the Cold War. And now this has been corrupted and in turn weakened the West itself and Bannon believes the West now faces losing everything it has gained across more than 2000 years.
For Bannon large corporations, political parties and the Republican establishment itself are proponents and beneficiaries of this ‘false market’ – monopolies are sustained by profligate fiscal policy with irresponsible government spending leading to a situation today where the US has $100 trillion of unfunded liabilities. The bailouts of 2008 were unacceptable and built on the tax dollar contributions of the American middle class who received nothing back in return. No surprise, Bannon claims that 5 of the 7 wealthiest counties in US are suburbs of Washington DC.
Bannon is also as damning about a second form of capitalism – Ayn Rand influenced – that is libertarian capitalism, which he sees as commoditising people into mere producers and products. This weakens ties of association and lessens our collective moral strength – and the danger here is that this is particularly attractive to younger people as it has become indistinguishable from the modern-day libertarian movement.
Crony capitalism is perpetuated by his second concern, the immense secularisation of the West.
“I certainly think secularism has sapped the strength of the Judeo-Christian West to defend its ideals, right?”
And this links to the third threat, the war against jihadist Islamic fascism. Where there is a vacuum stronger forces will move in. For Bannon Islamic fascism is now a global threat which can only be addressed through force. Radical Islam is driven by modern markets and technology which the West created and sophisticated terrorists are able to corrupt, leading to a rise in global conflict that has to be faced-off today, for postponing this battle will lead to unimaginable horrors if the West doesn’t act swiftly and decisively.
Russia is the other threat. And in no uncertain terms does Bannon damn Putin:
“Putin’s … very, very, very intelligent. I can see this in the United States where he’s playing very strongly to social conservatives about his message about more traditional values, so I think it’s something that we have to be very much on guard of.”
And framing Putin within his earlier crony capitalism narrative:
“I’m not justifying Vladimir Putin and the kleptocracy that he represents, because he eventually is the state capitalist of kleptocracy.”
It is Putin’s harnessing of traditionalism – particularly where it underpins nationalism – that should be admired and replicated in the West, not Putin himself or his world-view.
For Bannon the anger of the tea party and global insurgency politics is not driven by racism, nor is the movement an aggregation of homophobes or nativists but sensible middle class Americans who know they are paying their tax dollars towards their own imminent financial, spiritual and political destruction.
And these are global problems – because crony capitalism, secularism and the rise of radical Islam are failures of global liberalism but perpetuated through the tepid response of ‘conservative’ intellectuals such as Charles Krauthammer and William Kristol who repeatedly attacked the Tea Party and its leadership whilst the nation began to sink.
With Bannon, Trump and “Trumpism” the US and the West has an opportunity for economic, moral and political renewal – a new enlightenment.