Bannon Builds a Bomb

Liberals keen to wake up from what they regard as a prelapsarian nightmare in which fascists have stormed the White House, and “The Handmaid’s Tale” is some kind of documentary, might want to invest more time in their painful misreading of dystopian fictions.

What therapists call dissociative behavior, liberals aghast at the warp and weft of democracy call Monday. Or Tuesday. Or . . . you get the point.

Because convincing oneself that an unkind and unforgiving world will soon revert back to what one would like it to be, might be comforting. But reality rampages on.

If one man animates the coping mechanisms of the “woke” more than President Trump, it is certainly his old pal Steve Bannon.

Bannon holds a dubious honor. He is one of perhaps three people whose name alone sparks a Pavlovian response among the throngs of the pro-establishment resistance.

He was barely mentioned within the pages of the Daily Beast last week before the familiar cries of “white supremacist!” punctured an already shrill din.

Bannon’s latest “outrage” it seems, is in birthing a new populist foundation called The Movement. Across a continent already bubbling with populist uprisings claiming the power centers of Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Italy, Bannon is fusing a dirty bomb with currency and credence.

Europe’s populist movement has the air of a ragtag insurgency. They like to fight dirty. Most importantly: they like to win. Bannon thinks melding this all together with stacks of cash, and political ballast will provide succor to a movement whose shoestring victories have rocked the continent.

The Movement will arm-up suitors with money, messaging advice, polling and data targeting, and intellectual meat from sympathetic think-tanks—something that famishes President Trump in a largely hostile Washington brain-center.

By capturing a third of lawmakers at next year’s seismic European Parliament elections, the Wall Street apostate wants to bomb the European Union into reform—or rubble. Bear in mind that a majority of European citizens think the beleaguered institution is “headed in the wrong direction.”

Such an achievement certainly would cause a ruckus. Populism’s detractors at the Financial Times cling to the hope that populists, once dehydrated of their heady for-the-people brew, will dissolve into the apparently botchy dunces the elite insists they are. But to the dismay of the old order, disruption isn’t all they have.

The hopes of detractors have been dashed in Austria and Italy, where Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has taken swift and popular action against immigration. The sober Foreign Policy even touted the Millennial as Europe’s future, given his deft synthesis of populist heart and conservative head.

In Italy, it took Lega supremo Matteo Salvini just one day to block incoming migrant ships. Despite the usual eruptions of pixel and paper, a full 80 percent of Italians supported the move.

What ails the European Union reaches far beyond our own “Carry On Brexit.” Voters in every member state have said that immigration, and terrorism—the EU’s siamese bête noireconcern them most.

But Bannon the blotchy bombardier should tread carefully. News of his new movement hasn’t been met with the expected bobbing of pitchforks. Populists across the continent are lukewarm at best. Perhaps his masterminding of the Roy Moore debacle still sullies his stock.

Or not. After Theresa May revealed her wildly insulting plan to leave the European Union in name only, her big rival for the top job stepped down. And fired up. Boris Johnson, ex-foreign secretary wasted no time in attacking London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s faltering leadership. The carnival of stabbings on the streets paints a well-documented reality.

Buzzfeed reported that Bannon also has been talking to Boris. Though the substance of their “regular” chats wasn’t detailed, they’re probably not discussing the weather.

This really got the Resistance going. David Lammy MP, who backs a “People’s Vote” to overturn the people’s vote, this week called the will of said people “bollocks,” and tweeted his boiler-plated disgust.

No doubt, Lammy and the rest of them are a least a little worried. Boris is making moves. And he really wants to leave the European Union, not just mollify the plebs with a bankers’ Brexit. When Theresa May falls, the smart money is on the blonde, despite what the London enbubbled insist.

Yet, while they giddy themselves with fantasies of thwarting Brexit, and defenestrating President Trump, they’ve failed to notice that politics has changed. The debate is no longer Left versus Right. It’s what policy wonk David Goodhart calls the Anywheres versus Somewheres.

The Somewheres voted for Trump and Brexit. The Anywheres spit bile at both. As Goodhart points out, the traditional center-left’s collapse motors the populist right. Abandoned working-class voters don’t recognize their old parties now captured by the intellectual left.

Running to the now economically-prudent right, the Left’s abandoned voters have found a voice. Alas, 2 million nonvoters won Brexit for the plebs; the Rust Belt won it for Trump. The fix is in. Screaming at this week’s designated boogeyman won’t change a thing.

Photo credit: Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images

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About Christopher Gage

Christopher Gage is a British political journalist and a founding member of the Gentlemen of the Swig. Subscribe to his Substack, "Oxford Sour."

Photo: LILLE, FRANCE - MARCH 10: Former US President advisor Steve Bannon gives a press conference during the French far-right Front National (FN) party annual congress on March 10, 2018 at the Grand Palais in Lille, north of France. Le Pen will attempt to revive her battered party this weekend at a conference with a proposal to ditch the tainted National Front brand, seen as a key hurdle to winning power. on March 10, 2018 in Lille, France. (Photo by Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images)