What Does Steve Bannon Want?

What Does Steve Bannon Want? by Christopher Caldwell.

President Trump presents a problem to those who look at politics in terms of systematic ideologies. He is either disinclined or unable to lay out his agenda in that way. So perhaps it was inevitable that Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, who does have a gift for thinking systematically, would be so often invoked by Mr. Trump’s opponents. …

steve_bannon_2017

Mr. Bannon, 63, has won a reputation for abrasive brilliance at almost every stop in his unorthodox career — as a naval officer, Goldman Sachs mergers specialist, entertainment-industry financier, documentary screenwriter and director, Breitbart News cyber-agitprop impresario and chief executive of Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign. One Harvard Business School classmate described him to The Boston Globe as “top three in intellectual horsepower in our class — perhaps the smartest.” Benjamin Harnwell of the Institute for Human Dignity, a Catholic organization in Rome, calls him a “walking bibliography.”

Perhaps because Mr. Bannon came late to conservatism, turning his full-time energy to political matters only after the Sept. 11 attacks, he radiates an excitement about it that most of his conservative contemporaries long ago lost. …

A nation of people, not ideas:

Where Mr. Bannon does veer sharply from recent mainstream Republicanism is in his all-embracing nationalism. He speaks of sovereignty, economic nationalism, opposition to globalization and finding common ground with Brexit supporters and other groups hostile to the transnational European Union. On Thursday, at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, he described the “center core” of Trump administration philosophy as the belief that the United States is more than an economic unit in a borderless world. It is “a nation with a culture” and “a reason for being.” …

Banking creates problems:

“Think about it,” he said in a talk hosted by the Institute for Human Dignity. “Not one criminal charge has ever been brought to any bank executive associated with 2008 crisis.” He warned against “the Ayn Rand or the Objectivist School of libertarian capitalism,” by which he meant “a capitalism that really looks to make people commodities, and to objectify people.” Capitalism, he said, ought to rest on a “Judeo-Christian” foundation.

Steering Republicans away from focusing on profits, towards people and values:

It was Pat Buchanan who in his 1992 run for president first called on Republicans to value jobs and communities over profits. An argument consumed the party over whether this was a better-rounded vision of society or just the grousing of a reactionary. After a generation, Mr. Buchanan has won that argument. By 2016 his views on trade and migration, once dismissed as crackpot, were spreading so fast that everyone in the party had embraced them — except its elected officials and its establishment presidential candidates.

Not Islam:

Mr. Bannon does not often go into detail about what Judeo-Christian culture is, but he knows one thing it is not: Islam. Like most Americans, he believes that Islamism — the extremist political movement — is a dangerous adversary. More controversially he holds that, since this political movement is generated within the sphere of Islam, the growth of Islam — the religion — is itself a problem with which American authorities should occupy themselves. This is a view that was emphatically repudiated by Presidents Obama and George W. Bush.

hat-tip Stephen Neil