The Trumpian Chronicles — week 5—the ethnonationalism paradox

A pessimist-realist’s take on our changing world

Week 1 here. Week 2 here. Week 3 here. Special edition here. Week 4 here.

Steve Bannon and Reince Preibus at CPAC 2017

Week 5 started as one of the most “normal” weeks so far for the Trump administration, until CPAC. The main events of the week revolve around 2 key moments of the conservative powwow, which warrant further analysis.

  1. Bannon affirms the ethnonationalist bent of the Trump era
  2. Trump pursues his attacks on the media and brands it the “enemy of the people”
  3. The White House blocked access to main news outlets, critical of the administration

Let’s break down the 3 events in detail:

  1. Bannon affirms the ethnonationalist bent of the Trump era (Feb 23)

Steve Bannon has developed his particular brand of ethnonationalism /economic nationalism over the years and as he famously put it, Trump is a “blunt instrument” in the execution of his dark worldview. CPAC 2017 was a rare instance where Bannon spoke publicly about his plans and they’re ahistorical to the US’s political mainstream, his core goal is “the “deconstruction of the administrative state” — meaning a system of taxes, regulations and trade pacts that the president and his advisers believe stymie economic growth and infringe upon one’s sovereignty. “If you look at these Cabinet nominees, they were selected for a reason, and that is deconstruction”.

My take: Bannon outlined his ethnonationalist credo and a warped economic nationalist agenda. It should be said that he believes, and he may be right, that these fundamentals are what swung the election to Trump.The rub is that the US is the prime beneficiary overall of a globalized economy, rolling it back will cause untold pain to the very constituency Bannon claims to defend. What Bannon points to is the key flaw in liberal democracies/open economies as we reach the first quarter of this new century. As I’ve written in 2015: “Inept politicians bent on blocking reforms to score points (the US Congress under both parties), under-elected political leaders who govern with less than a third of actual electoral support and who plunge below 20% (France’s Hollande), antiquated electoral systems fit for the 18th century which clash with voter aspirations (Canada), all underscore the necessity to deeply reform our institutions, our democratic OS, to the core.”

2. Trump pursues his attacks on the media and brands it the “enemy of the people”

Prodded by his own insecurities and Bannon’s fire-breathing rhetoric, Trump unleashed another level of attack on the press at his CPAC speech, proclaiming that “the media is the enemy of the people”.

My take: This President comes out of the rough and tumble tabloid press world of NYC, he thought he understood the national political press and is surprised at the level of leaks and animosity in the DC press corps. His unprecedented attack on the media is a sign of weakness, a “red meat” bumper sticker offered to the base, mired in its echochamber. The press, whose credibility with public opinion has been undermined for decades, is the main beneficiary of these attacks as independents and Democrats are rushing to subscribe to the NY Times, Washington Post and their local newspapers.

3. The White House blocked access to main news outlets, critical of the administration

My take: Sean Spicer again showed how weak his standing is with this White House. The ban of the BBC, New York Times and other outlets is clearly out of the Bannon/Miller wing, more “read meat” for the base. The fact that the first Oval Office interview given by Trump is to Breitbart is a tell. Bannon is ready for his flame-throwing Leninist deconstruction and willing to sacrifice Trump’s poll numbers to low 20s. Will the Congressional GOP wake up to that fact ? Do they understand that low 20s approvals means losing significant numbers in 2018 AND not passing any of their pet projects ?

LINKS:

Voices to listen to/follow:

umair haque

Simon Constable


Anil Dash

Justin Hendrix