Trump has been elected President. Having participated in a week-long social media freakout to deal with this shock (a fact I did not recognize about myself until a couple of days ago), I have some thoughts and I would like to put them out so that I can be enlightened by feedback. It is the only way to learn.
Very qualified people have written some good pieces already about the why and the how. I am posting links to them below, along with some random thoughts about the articles. They are not the whole story (what is?) but I think all these articles are must reads. My own comments are more like invitations to tell me off, or tell me more…
After these links and comments, I sum up my own thoughts and end with some questions.
You are still crying wolf. SlateStart Codex. (I don’t think Trump is particularly racist or sexist (relative to most 70 year old males, of any ethnicity) and he is obviously socially liberal compared to traditional Republicans. But the possibility is there that this shallow man (more or less socially liberal, a conman, ignorant) will be manipulated by his newfound advisers into disasters (initially abroad) that could have endless branching and mutating unintended consequences here and abroad. That could be a truly transformative crisis.. Racism and the rise of the KKK (real and imagined) are small potatoes compared to the storms that could potentially be unleashed in the world…Muslims, being intimately connected to the worldwide crisis in very direct ways, will likely face the consequences within the USA too; but the crucial point is that the whole shitstorm is likely to proceed along tracks that are occasionally parallel, but mostly completely unconnected with the identarian postmarxist postmodern worldview that dominates the elite Eurocentric Left today…Incidentally, if the ordure does hit the fan (I hope it does not, i hope the much maligned current world order survives or at least, has a soft landing), then Blacks and Latinos, like other citizens, will fight for America. I suspect that the fantasy worldview that emphasizes supranational and subnational identities well above national ones will prove very flimsy; flimsier even than “class solidarity” proved to be in the first world war…the elite Left’s freakout about the KKK and the coming age of Jim Crow is not completly wrong, but misses the biggest threats and their likely consequences. Which is not to say that no connection can be made between racism and the international order, but the race-obsessed post-truth glasses of the new postmarxist Left do get them into endless wrong turns and dead-ends in terms of priorities to be tackled.
I personally think Muslims are pretty much the only group who are actually likely to face government actions that will target entire groups for the real or imaginary behavior of some of them. And the mainstream Democratic party, the ACLU, Americans who believe in the constitution and the rule of law, and fair-minded Republicans will all be needed by them in order to help protect them against excesses. In terms of race, minorities will likely face law-enforcement excesses (as they do today, but these could increase). Occasional public confrontations (some very nasty), as well as indirect effects, arguable effects and fake effects are all possible, but they are not the main plan, or the main threat.
Meanwhile, there is also a mainstream Republican majority that has many longstanding Republican projects ready to go (tax cuts for the rich, supreme court appointments, Medicare privatization, benefit cutbacks, more prisons and prosecutors, renewed marijuana enforcement?) that will be painful for poor people and excessively nice to rich people. But world changing crises, if any, are more likely to start abroad)
The End of Identity Liberalism. NYT (Mark Lilla) (the “prediction” tone of the headline is misleading. It is not going to end. It may not be in power in the federal or state governments, but this meme-complex is fully entrenched in universities and among liberal intellectuals and they will only double down now that Trump has won. EVERYONE is doubling down on their favorite agenda, these people will double down on theirs. And because fear is such a powerful motivator, they will get even more traction in their own constituency. In war, lines harden, people have to tribalize. We will have to line up with all the liberals talking about the “pefrormativity of Whiteness” and suchlike because they will be OUR tribe. We will have no choice. War has it’s rules.
Stephen Bannon Speaks (this is my own blog post, which has links to two long pieces about Stephen Bannon; he describes himself as wishing to be the Thomas Cromwell of the age. Leaving aside the minor detail that Thomas Cromwell was beheaded by the King he served, I see where he is coming from; Cromwell’s historic achievements were real and lasting. My impression (and I am not a historian, so I look forward to being corrected) is that he smashed and grabbed all the monasteries and materially ended the domination of the Catholic church in England. He improved the administration, promoted the Protestant reformation in England and left England a stronger kingdom than it was when he became its dominant minister… before he was finally beheaded by his beheading-friendly king. Not being a supporter of Trump, I hope Bannon is not 10% as successful or as talented as Cromwell was)
Trump Country, and Trump Supporters (from Mother Jones) (the usual supporters of the modern Republican party: richer people, evangelicals, small business owners, all voted for Trump more or less as usual, this is about the new supporters he mobilized and the old supporters he mobilized for his candidacy versus traditional Republicans. It is well worth reading, a great work of ethnography.. though no attempt is made at drawing any deeper lessons. Since it was published in Mother Jones, the deeper lessons may be left-leaning for most readers, but I can also see people drawing the lessons Bannon is preaching (TBF, some of them are left wing too)..I suspect both (mainstream Left AND Bannonism) are likely to be wrong. So we are still waiting for the pieces about what to do next. No one intelligent seems to think that Trump can fix their problem, so what happens next? Some people will say that there is no solution for a lot of these people…a callous way of putting it would be that they will die of poor health, drug abuse and violent crime, kept away from gated communities by armed guards and drones. But who will live in those communities and under what code of life will they live? Will most of humanity find a new and relatively comfortable equilibrium? a better equilibrium? Or maybe there is no deeper pattern. One foot in front of the other…)
The Right Way to Resist Trump. NYT. Luigi Zingales. (This article is good, but it seems unlikely that the Democrats will be able to stay off super-elite liberal issues and freakouts. Trump’s own mistakes, infighting within his team, and the iron hand of the market (aka economics, a voodoo science about which nobody knows much) may ruin his administration so much that he will lose to whatever choice the Dems make next time, but I do have my doubts about the Democrats switching to some new “on-message” message that people like this columnist would approve of… During the campaign we heard about how Trump is easily manipulated into biting at every story that he should just leave well alone…well, that applies to the Democrats in spades. And Trump seems to know this and he will relentlessly use this fact to create fake controversies about some Broadway musical or some bathroom labeling issue, where the entire liberal media will be against him and the Nixonian silent majority will think “those liberal elites really ARE idiots” and so on….it will be a horrible four years (I still hope, not 8)
To sum up, I think we had a close election; one that the Democrats could have won, in spite of all of Trump’s newly mobilized voters because he also had such huge negatives. But as it is, they did not win. Relatively contingent events probably played a part in their loss (Comey), but that should not obscure the fact that something huge has happened on the Republican side. A trash-talking socially liberal outsider, with a reputation as a conman (or at a minimum, a shady businessman, which is pretty much the same thing) took over the Republican party in the face of near-total establishment disapproval and then generated enough excitement in his core constituency (disaffected White people, rich and poor) to win a US general election. And he did this in spite of being rejected by almost every traditional newspaper and media outlet in the country (even at Fox, some hosts were ambivalent). And he did so with an unconventional campaign that relied on voter excitement and (frequently negative) media coverage rather than on the kind of professional political operation that has characterized all recent American presidential campaigns. This is an event worth paying attention to.
But having taken him seriously, we still have what his own chief strategist calls “a perfect vessel”, waiting to be filled. But with what? Partisan commentary almost necessarily has to try and freak-out their support base for or against the incoming administration, and may be grossly exaggerated. But there are some grounds for thinking it may not be business as usual. My preference is clearly for business as usual (because I tend towards the belief that change will happen anyway, but it is better if it happens slowly and imperceptibly; of course, this is not how providence sometimes operates, so real life can and does deviate from my personal desires) so I personally will be relatively at ease if Trump turns out to be mostly talk; relying on distractions and culture wars to keep his constituency from noticing that nothing has changed for the better in their life, in short, just another modestly corrupt Republican administration; consistent in serving the short-term interests of the “top 1%” , willing to damage the long term interests of America (and the world at large) if it means more profits in the short term, and more than likely, losing the next election. Hopefully without terminally tarnishing the dignity and gravitas of the office of President.
It may turn out this way. Which will be unpleasant, but life will go on until the next election and then perhaps the next (modestly corrupt) Democratic administration. Such is the best case scenario. And I hope this less than exciting outcome does come to be.
But suppose it is not business as usual? Then I am looking for insights about two scenarios:
1. World War Z. The big changes will start abroad in this scenario, and most will probably be unintended. We will soon have a National security adviser who thinks that war against Islamism is the defining feature of the world today. Without getting into any long discussion of whether this is true or not, look at it this way: there is no competing Islamic civilization out there in terms of unity, material progress or military strength. Even if we imagine (as Islamists sometimes do) that superior fellow-feeling and social organization (a patriarchal but otherwise egalitarian religion, resistant to culture-destroying postmodern memes; their view, not mine) means that they win in the long term, even Islamists recognize that in the short or medium term this “victory” involves getting invaded by competing infidel powers with better artillery and missiles.
So let us imagine Flynn has his way. What would such a war look like? His views are frequently incoherent and it is by no means clear where they will end up. e.g. he seems to regard IRAN (not Pakistan, Turkey or Saudi Arabia, the big three Sunni hopes) as the main threat and regards Russia as both threat and ally. There is just no rational way to predict what happens next based on these reported views… The US would presumably want to smash any and all Islamic counties that don’t cooperate, but isn’t it then a given that China, Russia and the US would also compete against each other in this new “scramble for Africa” (the Muslim world being only one order of magnitude more capable than Africa, while the big three are several orders of magnitude more materially capable than any Muslim country)? Who will line up on what side? Will it be mostly covert, low intensity warfare or will things spin out of control (the “scramble for Africa” being followed by World War One)? What about India? Japan? Latin America? The Baltics? Poland? Ukraine? This is a very complex system. Start a disturbance at a few critical points and the transitions can become totally unpredictable.
Think about it this way and it is easy to reach the comforting conclusion that this scenario is so nightmarish that “saner heads will prevail”. The current international order will survive. I certainly hope so, but then again, that is probably what many sane people thought in 1913. I look forward to your thoughts.
The amazing rise of Western civilization and its steadily increasing dominance of the globe in the last 500 years have given it an aura of inevitability and permanence. Not in terms of particular nationalities (particular powers rise and fall), but in terms of intellectual paradigms and visions of reality. But alongside this dominance are well established currents of doubt, pessimism and rejection, from Ivan Illych to Dugin (and even, in a way, Bannon). I am not including the currently fashionable postmarxist postmodern current in Western universities, with its rejection of tradition, authority and “dead White males” and its glorification of identity politics and not so critical “critical studies”. This current seems just the next (last?) stage within the Western tradition itself; more a sign of its bankruptcy than the vision of an alternative (simply put, because it’s major themes seem to have such tangential,incidental, and minimal, contact with actual biology, history, culture or science). Anyway, without getting too far into this potentially book-length debate , suppose this really is terminal decadence, then what comes next?
The unknown unknowns get really interesting at that point.
I, of course, have no good idea about what comes next. But who does? I await your suggestions about reading material ?
Meanwhile, a few random videos that have little or no connection with one election and one president.. (the first one in particular does not imply complete agreement with his detailed views; mostly I posted it for his questions ? )
Postscript: There is another Bannon profile in (of all places) The Hollywood Reporter that is worth a look. The man is serious. And he thinks he is Thomas Cromwell. Which is interesting, because some of you may remember that Cromwell was beheaded. By Henry the VIIIth, the king he so loyally served.
These remarks are interesting. That he is totally committed to a global war with Islam is no surprise. But I urge you to read the rest. And comment. Some of you will no doubt agree with his elite-bashing (and/or his Islam bashing), but there is a lot more in there. And he is now senior adviser to the US president. The worldview is definitely at odds with prevailing Western opinion, but is it “thick enough” and does it overlap enough with reality to stand on its own? and what happens if you try to put it into effect?
What do you think?
I think he is wrong on several simple matters of fact, not just on ideology (which i find wrong in any case). The notion of a historic Judeo-Christian West that has stood as one against the Islamic tide for centuries is just bunk. Judeo is a new apellation and he knows it. Christendom, yes, Judeo-Christian, certainly not. Which makes you think that he may have some nasty surprises up his sleeve for the Jews. But since he is focused on first smashing the Islamic threat, he will probably be good to Israel, for now. Those Jews who regard weak-minded liberal Western Jews as traitors (or at least, as softies) may be happy to embrace him. For now. Like Stalin did with Hitler, both parties can think “I am using him, for now, to become stronger”. One party will of course turn out to be wrong. But all that is speculation. It may be that he is genuinely ignorant and really does think “Judeo-Christian civilization” has been bravely fighting Islam for 1400 years. We will see.. (Whatever his own inner beliefs, the Alt-Right he has promoted is not shy in its attitude towards Jews…if you check out the Alt-Right sites, you may find their obsession with ovens and trains less than reassuring).
His whole theory about the only right kind of capitalism being “Judeo-Christian” seems shaky to me as well (though in this case he may not know it; i.e. these may be his sincere beliefs) but I will let experts comment. In fact, the whole banks and crony capitalist issue I will leave to the better informed. I dont think that is the scary part.
The notion that “strong nations make good neighbors”is high grade, class A bullshit and he likely knows it, but who knows. He may not be that well informed. And his notion that Putin and the West can join hands in a grand White Christian alliance to first beat the shit out of Muslim barbarians is also bunk. Putin would much rather eat the Baltics, the Ukraine and maybe even Poland before he seriously starts any extermination campaign in the Stans.
China and Japan get no significant mention.
India gets approvingly cited for electing Modi, but in the greater scheme of things must surely prepare for Christianization if team Bannon wins the war (when push comes to shove, would you expect Bannon to stand with the Evangelicals or with Hindu nationalism? Do the math). Interin calculation is another matter. See Stalin and Hitler above. Some in India will no doubt see possibilities in the medium term. I don’t because I think this is a flaky worldview that will damage the USA and the current system and not build anything better. India still needs the current system to grow in. Thats just my opinion.
Overall, the current world system is to be trashed. In the melee that follows, what civilizations have the coherence and the strength to fight it out. And who wins? is a less violent reform possible? Is HE a less violent reformer?
I still hope (and even expect) that we will not go too far from the current (irredeemably corrupt?) system, but here you have it: the senior adviser to Donald Trump, President Elect. President Elect IN the current system.
The remarks — beamed into a small conference room in a 15th-century marble palace in a secluded corner of the Vatican — were part of a 50-minute Q&A during a conference focused on poverty hosted by the Human Dignity Institute, which BuzzFeed News attended as part of its coverage of the rise of Europe’s religious right. The group was founded by Benjamin Harnwell, a longtime aide to Conservative member of the European Parliament Nirj Deva to promote a “Christian voice” in European politics. The group has ties to some of the most conservative factions inside the Catholic Church; Cardinal Raymond Burke, one of the most vocal critics of Pope Francis who was ousted from a senior Vatican position in 2014, is chair of the group’s advisory board.
The transcript begins 90 seconds into the then-Breitbart News chairman’s remarks because microphone placement made the opening mostly unintelligible, but you can hear the whole recording at the bottom of the post. Here is what he said, unedited: (Big chunks, but not all, you have to go to the site to read the full thing, i recommend you do, i had no time to focus on the best excerpts)
Steve Bannon: [World War I] triggered a century of barbaric — unparalleled in mankind’s history — virtually 180 to 200 million people were killed in the 20th century, and I believe that, you know, hundreds of years from now when they look back, we’re children of that: We’re children of that barbarity. This will be looked at almost as a new Dark Age.
But the thing that got us out of it, the organizing principle that met this, was not just the heroism of our people — whether it was French resistance fighters, whether it was the Polish resistance fighters, or it’s the young men from Kansas City or the Midwest who stormed the beaches of Normandy, commandos in England that fought with the Royal Air Force, that fought this great war, really the Judeo-Christian West versus atheists, right? The underlying principle is an enlightened form of capitalism, that capitalism really gave us the wherewithal. It kind of organized and built the materials needed to support, whether it’s the Soviet Union, England, the United States, and eventually to take back continental Europe and to beat back a barbaric empire in the Far East.
That capitalism really generated tremendous wealth. And that wealth was really distributed among a middle class, a rising middle class, people who come from really working-class environments and created what we really call a Pax Americana. It was many, many years and decades of peace. And I believe we’ve come partly offtrack 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.
“I believe we’ve come partly offtrack 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.”
And we’re at the end stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict, of which if the people in this room, the people in the church, do not bind together and really form what I feel is an aspect of the church militant, to really be able to not just stand with our beliefs, but to fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity that’s starting, that will completely eradicate everything that we’ve been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years.
Now, what I mean by that specifically: I think that you’re seeing three kinds of converging tendencies: One is a form of capitalism that is taken away from the underlying spiritual and moral foundations of Christianity and, really, Judeo-Christian belief.
I see that every day. I’m a very practical, pragmatic capitalist. I was trained at Goldman Sachs, I went to Harvard Business School, I was as hard-nosed a capitalist as you get. I specialized in media, in investing in media companies, and it’s a very, very tough environment. And you’ve had a fairly good track record. So I don’t want this to kinda sound namby-pamby, “Let’s all hold hands and sing ‘Kumbaya’ around capitalism.”
But there’s a strand of capitalism today — two strands of it, that are very disturbing.
One is state-sponsored capitalism. And that’s the capitalism you see in China and Russia. I believe it’s what Holy Father [Pope Francis] has seen for most of his life in places like Argentina, where you have this kind of crony capitalism of people that are involved with these military powers-that-be in the government, and it forms a brutal form of capitalism that is really about creating wealth and creating value for a very small subset of people. And it doesn’t spread the tremendous value creation throughout broader distribution patterns that were seen really in the 20th century.
The second form of capitalism that I feel is almost as disturbing, is what I call the Ayn Rand or the Objectivist School of libertarian capitalism. And, look, I’m a big believer in a lot of libertarianism. I have many many friends that’s a very big part of the conservative movement — whether it’s the UKIP movement in England, it’s many of the underpinnings of the populist movement in Europe, and particularly in the United States.
However, that form of capitalism is quite different when you really look at it to what I call the “enlightened capitalism” of the Judeo-Christian West. It is a capitalism that really looks to make people commodities, and to objectify people, and to use them almost — as many of the precepts of Marx — and that is a form of capitalism, particularly to a younger generation [that] they’re really finding quite attractive. And if they don’t see another alternative, it’s going to be an alternative that they gravitate to under this kind of rubric of “personal freedom.”
“Look at what’s happening in ISIS … look at the sophistication of which they’ve taken the tools of capitalism … at what they’ve done with Twitter and Facebook.”
The other tendency is an immense secularization of the West. And I know we’ve talked about secularization for a long time, but if you look at younger people, especially millennials under 30, the overwhelming drive of popular culture is to absolutely secularize this rising iteration.
Now that call converges with something we have to face, and it’s a very unpleasant topic, but we are in an outright war against jihadist Islamic fascism. And this war is, I think, metastasizing far quicker than governments can handle it.
If you look at what’s happening in ISIS, which is the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant, that is now currently forming the caliphate that is having a military drive on Baghdad, if you look at the sophistication of which they’ve taken the tools of capitalism. If you look at what they’ve done with Twitter and Facebook and modern ways to fundraise, and to use crowdsourcing to fund, besides all the access to weapons, over the last couple days they have had a radical program of taking kids and trying to turn them into bombers. They have driven 50,000 Christians out of a town near the Kurdish border. We have video that we’re putting up later today on Breitbart where they’ve took 50 hostages and thrown them off a cliff in Iraq.
That war is expanding and it’s metastasizing to sub-Saharan Africa. We have Boko Haram and other groups that will eventually partner with ISIS in this global war, and it is, unfortunately, something that we’re going to have to face, and we’re going to have to face very quickly.
So I think the discussion of, should we put a cap on wealth creation and distribution? It’s something that should be at the heart of every Christian that is a capitalist — “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?”
I think it really behooves all of us to really take a hard look and make sure that we are reinvesting that back into positive things. But also to make sure that we understand that we’re at the very beginning stages of a global conflict, and if we do not bind together as partners with others in other countries that this conflict is only going to metastasize.
They have a Twitter account up today, ISIS does, about turning the United States into a “river of blood” if it comes in and tries to defend the city of Baghdad. And trust me, that is going to come to Europe. That is going to come to Central Europe, it’s going to come to Western Europe, it’s going to come to the United Kingdom. And so I think we are in a crisis of the underpinnings of capitalism, and on top of that we’re now, I believe, at the beginning stages of a global war against Islamic fascism.
“With all the baggage that those [right-wing] groups bring — and trust me, a lot of them bring a lot of baggage, both ethnically and racially— but we think that will all be worked through with time.”
Benjamin Harnwell, Human Dignity Institute: Thank you, Steve. That was a fascinating, fascinating overview. I am particularly struck by your argument, then, that in fact, capitalism would spread around the world based on the Judeo-Christian foundation is, in fact, something that can create peace through peoples rather than antagonism, which is often a point not sufficiently appreciated. Before I turn behind me to take a question —
Bannon: One thing I want to make sure of, if you look at the leaders of capitalism at that time, when capitalism was I believe at its highest flower and spreading its benefits to most of mankind, almost all of those capitalists were strong believers in the Judeo-Christian West. They were either active participants in the Jewish faith, they were active participants in the Christians’ faith, and they took their beliefs, and the underpinnings of their beliefs was manifested in the work they did. And I think that’s incredibly important and something that would really become unmoored. I can see this on Wall Street today — I can see this with the securitization of everything is that, everything is looked at as a securitization opportunity. People are looked at as commodities. I don’t believe that our forefathers had that same belief.
Harnwell: Over the course of this conference we’ve heard from various points of view regarding alleviation of poverty. We’ve heard from the center-left perspective, we’ve heard from the socialist perspective, we’ve heard from the Christian democrat, if you will, perspective. What particularly interests me about your point of view Steve, to talk specifically about your work, Breitbart is very close to the tea party movement. So I’m just wondering whether you could tell me about if in the current flow of contemporary politics — first tell us a little bit about Breitbart, what the mission is, and then tell me about the reach that you have and then could you say a little bit about the current dynamic of what’s going on at the moment in the States.
Bannon: Outside of Fox News and the Drudge Report, we’re the third-largest conservative news site and, quite frankly, we have a bigger global reach than even Fox. And that’s why we’re expanding so much internationally.
Look, we believe — strongly — that there is a global tea party movement. We’ve seen that. We were the first group to get in and start reporting on things like UKIP and Front National and other center right. With all the baggage that those groups bring — and trust me, a lot of them bring a lot of baggage, both ethnically and racially — but we think that will all be worked through with time.
The central thing that binds that all together is a center-right populist movement of really the middle class, the working men and women in the world who are just tired of being dictated to by what we call the party of Davos. A group of kind of — we’re not conspiracy-theory guys, but there’s certainly — and I could see this when I worked at Goldman Sachs — there are people in New York that feel closer to people in London and in Berlin than they do to people in Kansas and in Colorado, and they have more of this elite mentality that they’re going to dictate to everybody how the world’s going to be run.
“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.”
Now, with that, we are strong capitalists. And we believe in the benefits of capitalism. And, particularly, the harder-nosed the capitalism, the better. However, like I said, there’s two strands of capitalism that we’re quite concerned about.
One is crony capitalism, or what we call state-controlled capitalism, and that’s the big thing the tea party is fighting in the United States, and really the tea party’s biggest fight is not with the left, because we’re not there yet. The biggest fight the tea party has today is just like UKIP. UKIP’s biggest fight is with the Conservative Party.
The tea party in the United States’ biggest fight is with the the Republican establishment, which is really a collection of crony capitalists that feel that they have a different set of rules of how they’re going to comport themselves and how they’re going to run things. And, quite frankly, it’s the reason that the United States’ financial situation is so dire, particularly our balance sheet. We have virtually a hundred trillion dollars of unfunded liabilities. That is all because you’ve had this kind of crony capitalism in Washington, DC. The rise of Breitbart is directly tied to being the voice of that center-right opposition. And, quite frankly, we’re winning many, many victories.
On the social conservative side, we’re the voice of the anti-abortion movement, the voice of the traditional marriage movement, and I can tell you we’re winning victory after victory after victory. Things are turning around as people have a voice and have a platform of which they can use.
“That center-right revolt is really a global revolt. I think you’re going to see it in Latin America, I think you’re going to see it in Asia, I think you’ve already seen it in India.”
And you’re seeing that whether that was UKIP and Nigel Farage in the United Kingdom, whether it’s these groups in the Low Countries in Europe, whether it’s in France, there’s a new tea party in Germany. The theme is all the same. And the theme is middle-class and working-class people — they’re saying, “Hey, I’m working harder than I’ve ever worked. I’m getting less benefits than I’m ever getting through this, I’m incurring less wealth myself, and I’m seeing a system of fat cats who say they’re conservative and say they back capitalist principles, but all they’re doing is binding with corporatists.” Right? Corporatists, to garner all the benefits for themselves.
And that center-right revolt is really a global revolt. I think you’re going to see it in Latin America, I think you’re going to see it in Asia, I think you’ve already seen it in India. Modi’s great victory was very much based on these Reaganesque principles, so I think this is a global revolt, and we are very fortunate and proud to be the news site that is reporting that throughout the world.
Bannon: It’s exactly the same. Currently, if you read The Economist, you read the Financial Times this week, you’ll see there’s a relatively obscure agency in the federal government that is engaged in a huge fight that may lead to a government shutdown. It’s called the Export-Import Bank. And for years, it was a bank that helped finance things that other banks wouldn’t do. And what’s happening over time is that it’s metastasized to be a cheap form of financing to General Electric and to Boeing and to other large corporations. You get this financing from other places if they wanted to, but they’re putting this onto the middle-class taxpayers to support this.
“I’m not an expert in this, but it seems that [right-wing parties] have had some aspects that may be anti-Semitic or racial … My point is that over time it all gets kind of washed out, right?”
And the tea party is using this as an example of the cronyism. General Electric and these major corporations that are in bed with the federal government are not what we’d consider free-enterprise capitalists. We’re backers of entrepreneurial capitalists. They’re not. They’re what we call corporatist. They want to have more and more monopolistic power and they’re doing that kind of convergence with big government. And so the fight here — and that’s why the media’s been very late to this party — but the fight you’re seeing is between entrepreneur capitalism, and the Aspen Institute is a tremendous supporter of, and the people like the corporatists that are closer to the people like we think in Beijing and Moscow than they are to the entrepreneurial capitalist spirit of the United States.
Harnwell: Thanks, Steve. I’m going to turn around now, as I’m sure we have some great questions from the floor. Who has the first question then?
Q….. from your point of view especially, your experience in the investment banking world — what concrete measures do you think they should be doing to combat, prevent this phenomenon? We know that various sums of money are used in all sorts of ways and they do have different initiatives, but in order to concretely counter this epidemic now, what are your thoughts?
“For Christians, and particularly for those who believe in the underpinnings of the Judeo-Christian West, I don’t believe that we should have a [financial] bailout.”
Bannon: That’s a great question. The 2008 crisis, I think the financial crisis — which, by the way, I don’t think we’ve come through — is really driven I believe by the greed, much of it driven by the greed of the investment banks. My old firm, Goldman Sachs — traditionally the best banks are leveraged 8:1. When we had the financial crisis in 2008, the investment banks were leveraged 35:1. Those rules had specifically been changed by a guy named Hank Paulson. He was secretary of Treasury. As chairman of Goldman Sachs, he had gone to Washington years before and asked for those changes. That made the banks not really investment banks, but made them hedge funds — and highly susceptible to changes in liquidity. And so the crisis of 2008 was, quite frankly, really never recovered from in the United States. It’s one of the reasons last quarter you saw 2.9% negative growth in a quarter. So the United States economy is in very, very tough shape.
And one of the reasons is that we’ve never really gone and dug down and sorted through the problems of 2008. Particularly the fact — think about it — not one criminal charge has ever been brought to any bank executive associated with 2008 crisis. And in fact, it gets worse. No bonuses and none of their equity was taken. So part of the prime drivers of the wealth that they took in the 15 years leading up to the crisis was not hit at all, and I think that’s one of the fuels of this populist revolt that we’re seeing as the tea party. So I think there are many, many measures, particularly about getting the banks on better footing, making them address all the liquid assets they have. I think you need a real clean-up of the banks balance sheets.
Questioner: Thank you.
Bannon: Great question.
Questioner: Hello, Mr. Bannon. I’m Mario Fantini, a Vermonter living in Vienna, Austria. You began describing some of the trends you’re seeing worldwide, very dangerous trends, worry trends. Another movement that I’ve been seeing grow and spread in Europe, unfortunately, is what can only be described as tribalist or neo-nativist movement — they call themselves Identitarians. These are mostly young, working-class, populist groups, and they’re teaching self-defense classes, but also they are arguing against — and quite effectively, I might add — against capitalism and global financial institutions, etc. How do we counteract this stuff? Because they’re appealing to a lot of young people at a very visceral level, especially with the ethnic and racial stuff.
Bannon: I didn’t hear the whole question, about the tribalist?
Questioner: Very simply put, there’s a growing movement among young people here in Europe, in France and in Austria and elsewhere, and they’re arguing very effectively against Wall Street institutions and they’re also appealing to people on an ethnic and racial level. And I was just wondering what you would recommend to counteract these movements, which are growing.
Bannon: One of the reasons that you can understand how they’re being fueled is that they’re not seeing the benefits of capitalism. I mean particularly — and I think it’s particularly more advanced in Europe than it is in the United States, but in the United States it’s getting pretty advanced — is that when you have this kind of crony capitalism, you have a different set of rules for the people that make the rules. It’s this partnership of big government and corporatists. I think it starts to fuel, particularly as you start to see negative job creation. If you go back, in fact, and look at the United States’ GDP, you look at a bunch of Europe. If you take out government spending, you know, we’ve had negative growth on a real basis for over a decade.
And that all trickles down to the man in the street. If you look at people’s lives, and particularly millennials, look at people under 30 — people under 30, there’s 50% really under employment of people in the United States, which is probably the most advanced economy in the West, and it gets worse in Europe.
And that’s what I think is fueling this populist revolt. Whether that revolt is in the midlands of England, or whether it’s in Middle America. And I think people are fed up with it.
And I think that’s why you’re seeing — when you read the media says, “tea party is losing, losing elections,” that is all BS. The elections we don’t win, we’re forcing those crony capitalists to come and admit that they’re not going to do this again. The whole narrative in Washington has been changed by this populist revolt that we call the grassroots of the tea party movement.
And it’s specifically because those bailouts were completely and totally unfair. It didn’t make those financial institutions any stronger, and it bailed out a bunch of people — by the way, and these are people that have all gone to Yale, and Harvard, they went to the finest institutions in the West. They should have known better.
And by the way: It’s all the institutions of the accounting firms, the law firms, the investment banks, the consulting firms, the elite of the elite, the educated elite, they understood what they were getting into, forcibly took all the benefits from it and then look to the government, went hat in hand to the government to be bailed out. And they’ve never been held accountable today. Trust me — they are going to be held accountable. You’re seeing this populist movement called the tea party in the United States.
“I certainly think secularism has sapped the strength of the Judeo-Christian West to defend its ideals, right?”
Bannon: Could you summarize that for me?
Harnwell: The first question was, you’d reference the Front National and UKIP as having elements that are tinged with the racial aspect amidst their voter profile, and the questioner was asking how you intend to deal with that aspect.
Bannon: I don’t believe I said UKIP in that. I was really talking about the parties on the continent, Front National and other European parties.
I’m not an expert in this, but it seems that they have had some aspects that may be anti-Semitic or racial. By the way, even in the tea party, we have a broad movement like this, and we’ve been criticized, and they try to make the tea party as being racist, etc., which it’s not. But there’s always elements who turn up at these things, whether it’s militia guys or whatever. Some that are fringe organizations. My point is that over time it all gets kind of washed out, right? People understand what pulls them together, and the people on the margins I think get marginalized more and more.
I believe that you’ll see this in the center-right populist movement in continental Europe. I’ve spent quite a bit of time with UKIP, and I can say to you that I’ve never seen anything at all with UKIP that even comes close to that. I think they’ve done a very good job of policing themselves to really make sure that people including the British National Front and others were not included in the party, and I think you’ve seen that also with tea party groups, where some people would show up and were kind of marginal members of the tea party, and the tea party did a great job of policing themselves early on. And I think that’s why when you hear charges of racism against the tea party, it doesn’t stick with the American people, because they really understand.
I think when you look at any kind of revolution — and this is a revolution — you always have some groups that are disparate. I think that will all burn away over time and you’ll see more of a mainstream center-right populist movement.
“Because at the end of the day, I think that Putin and his cronies are really a kleptocracy, that are really an imperialist power that want to expand.”
Question: Obviously, before the European elections the two parties had a clear link to Putin. If one of the representatives of the dangers of capitalism is the state involvement in capitalism, so, I see there, also Marine Le Pen campaigning in Moscow with Putin, and also UKIP strongly defending Russian positions in geopolitical terms.
Bannon: I think it’s a little bit more complicated. When Vladimir Putin, when you really look at some of the underpinnings of some of his beliefs today, a lot of those come from what I call Eurasianism; he’s got an adviser who harkens back to Julius Evola and different writers of the early 20th century who are really the supporters of what’s called the traditionalist movement, which really eventually metastasized into Italian fascism. A lot of people that are traditionalists are attracted to that.
One of the reasons is that they believe that at least Putin is standing up for traditional institutions, and he’s trying to do it in a form of nationalism — and I think that people, particularly in certain countries, want to see the sovereignty for their country, they want to see nationalism for their country. They don’t believe in this kind of pan-European Union or they don’t believe in the centralized government in the United States. They’d rather see more of a states-based entity that the founders originally set up where freedoms were controlled at the local level.
I’m not justifying Vladimir Putin and the kleptocracy that he represents, because he eventually is the state capitalist of kleptocracy. However, we the Judeo-Christian West really have to look at what he’s talking about as far as traditionalism goes — particularly the sense of where it supports the underpinnings of nationalism — and I happen to think that the individual sovereignty of a country is a good thing and a strong thing. I think strong countries and strong nationalist movements in countries make strong neighbors, and that is really the building blocks that built Western Europe and the United States, and I think it’s what can see us forward.
You know, Putin’s been quite an interesting character. He’s also 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. Because at the end of the day, I think that Putin and his cronies are really a kleptocracy, that are really an imperialist power that want to expand. However, I really believe that in this current environment, where you’re facing a potential new caliphate that is very aggressive that is really a situation — I’m not saying we can put it on a back burner — but I think we have to deal with first things first.
Questioner: One of my questions has to do with how the West should be responding to radical Islam. How, specifically, should we as the West respond to Jihadism without losing our own soul? Because we can win the war and lose ourselves at the same time. How should the West respond to radical Islam and not lose itself in the process?
Bannon: From a perspective — this may be a little more militant than others. I think definitely you’re going to need an aspect that is [unintelligible]. I believe you should take a very, very, very aggressive stance against radical Islam. And I realize there are other aspects that are not as militant and not as aggressive and that’s fine.
If you look back at the long history of the Judeo-Christian West struggle against Islam, I believe that our forefathers kept their stance, and I think they did the right thing. I think they kept it out of the world, whether it was at Vienna, or Tours, or other places… It bequeathed to use the great institution that is the church of the West.
Because it is a crisis, and it’s not going away. You don’t have to take my word for it. All you have to do is read the news every day, see what’s coming up, see what they’re putting on Twitter, what they’re putting on Facebook, see what’s on CNN, what’s on BBC. See what’s happening, and you will see we’re in a war of immense proportions. It’s very easy to play to our baser instincts, and we can’t do that. But our forefathers didn’t do it either. And they were able to stave this off, and they were able to defeat it, and they were able to bequeath to us a church and a civilization that really is the flower of mankind, so I think it’s incumbent on all of us to do what I call a gut check, to really think about what our role is in this battle that’s before us.