Current Executive Chairman of Breitbart News and politico Steve Bannon, has been in hot water over his past actions and alleged associations since he received his promotion from President-elect Donald Trump, going from Trump’s campaign CEO to the Chief Strategist and Senior Counsel for the upcoming White House administration. What made the criticism of Bannon much more worrisome however, was his response to it all.
Bannon, and even Trump to some extent, has been linked to what is being called the Alt-Right movement. It is a collaboration of “right-wing” ideologies which buck traditional mainstream politics, often associated with nationalism, populism and sometimes even ethnocentrism/white supremacy. The ties to Bannon, at least according to the mainstream media, have been so tight at times, that the The Washington Post released an article in which they claim that Bannon “coaxed” Trump into key positions sympathetic to the Alt-Right.
It has been articles and comments like WaPo’s which led Bannon to open up about who he is and what he represents in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
In his interview, Bannon seemed to embrace the dark cloud formed to him by pundits and the Left, stating that “Darkness is good. Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power. It only helps us when they [media/the left] get it wrong. They’re blind to who we are and what we’re doing.”
Bannon also made the prediction, in late summer, that Trump would win the election, according to the interview. He explained that the media, and in association, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, were in a “bubble” and their constant “talking to themselves” created a sense of self-affirmation and confirmation bias. These biases turned into, as Bannon states, the campaign’s “opening.”
It was after berating the left and the media, that Bannon began to speak about his alleged associations to the darker sides of the Alt-Right, that being the ethnocentric or ethno-supremacy groups, as well as how he would explain the way he sees the movement that Trump has created.
“Like [Andrew] Jackson’s populism, we’re going to build an entirely new political movement,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “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. Shipyards, 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.”
He continued, “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.”
Then he addressed the associations which have followed him, “I’m not a white nationalist, I’m a nationalist. I’m an economic nationalist. The globalists gutted the American working class and created a middle class in Asia. The issue now is about Americans looking to not get [expletive] over.”
Most people, in hearing Bannon’s description of his ideas, especially in his mention of the 1930s, and attempt to disassociate himself with, at least the ethno-supremacy accusations, hear the history of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the New Deal growth of government, already an odd comparison for Bannon to make as a self-described conservative, but unfortunately his rhetoric seems a bit off from that of FDR.
Taking Bannon at his own word, and in the context of 1930s, it sounds a lot like the rhetoric coming from Germany pre-World War II. His rhetoric matches the anger, scapegoating, and emotional ploys spoken in the early days of Adolf Hitler‘s rise.
While this may seem pejorative, or hyperbolic, let us look at how the Mises Institute, an Austrian Economic think tank, explains 1930 Germany’s economic situation.
In the 1930s, Hitler was widely viewed as just another protectionist central planner who recognized the supposed failure of the free market and the need for nationally guided economic development. Proto-Keynesian socialist economist Joan Robinson wrote that “Hitler found a cure against unemployment before Keynes was finished explaining it.”
What were those economic policies? He suspended the gold standard, embarked on huge public-works programs like autobahns, protected industry from foreign competition, expanded credit, instituted jobs programs, bullied the private sector on prices and production decisions, vastly expanded the military, enforced capital controls, instituted family planning, penalized smoking, brought about national healthcare and unemployment insurance, imposed education standards, and eventually ran huge deficits. The Nazi interventionist program was essential to the regime’s rejection of the market economy and its embrace of socialism in one country.
Now compare that to how Bannon and Trump have described their plans and vision for having won the White House.
- 1 Trillion Dollar Infrastructure matches the huge public works programs
- “The globalists gutted the American working class and created a middle class in Asia,” along with Trumps promises to coerce business back into the US, matches protection of industry from foreign competition,
- “With negative interest rates throughout the world, it’s the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything,” added to Trumps call to continue borrowing, matches expanding credit and the continuance of large deficits
- “rebuild everything. Shipyards, iron works, get them all jacked up,” matches the instituted jobs programs
- Trumps possible control of capital through protectionist trade.
- The comment by Bannon about being in power for the next “50 years” sounds awfully similar to the how Nazi’s described the Third Reich. “It is our will that this state shall endure for a thousand years. We are happy to know that the future is ours entirely!” – Triumph of Will (1935)
This not to say that Bannon or Trump should be compared to Nazis or that they have come close to committing the acts against humanity that occurred in that period of history. Rather it is a simple question which compares the rhetoric being used by the two administrations in their rise to power. After all, this perspective is a simple look back at history, so as to learn from it and utilize it to spot potential issues in the future. If we willfully ignore details, even if just as a safety measure, then we leave ourselves at risk of missing what could’ve been right under our nose. Famed philosopher George Santayana once said, “Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.”