A Response to Steve Bannon: Won’t Get Fooled Again

As I’ve written before, Steve Bannon isn’t shy about pretending like he is a lot smarter than liberals. He thinks he can play us. In his conversation with Robert Kuttner, Bannon has done it again.

“The Democrats,” he said, “the longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”

That feeds right into the hand of some liberals who think that addressing what has been called “identity politics” or “cultural issues” is hurting Democrats, who should move away from those things and focus on economic issues.

But Bannon was very careful to leave out a big part of his strategy. He is the guy who expanded the reach of Breitbart by making it a home for racists and white supremacists. He is the one who wrote and fought for the Muslim travel ban. He’s the guy that has a long association with AG Sessions, who is moving to dismantle affirmative action programs and purge voter rolls. He is also the one who is completely on-board with Trump’s plan to “deport ’em all” when it comes to undocumented immigrants. Finally, he is the one who joined David Duke in being thrilled with what Trump said in support of white supremacists and Nazis this week.

What I’m describing is a White House chief strategist who is 100 percent behind the racist things being said and done by the president. In both his previous career and in his current position, he has gone to great lengths to incite and inflame racism in this country. Then…when Democrats fight back, he accuses the left of being focused on race and identity while he is committed to “economic nationalism.” This is an age-old Republican game plan that dates back to the Southern Strategy. I can think of no more appropriate response than the one crafted years ago by The Who.

One might ask exactly what Bannon has actually done about economic issues since he joined the administration as compared to the racist policies he has pursued. The one big item that’s been on the table is that he supported legislation that would have stripped tens of millions of Americans of their health insurance—the large percentage of whom are Trump supporters. We all know that Bannon has spoken about a plan for huge infrastructure investment. But that one was going nowhere before things became strained between the White House and congressional Republicans. I find it hard to imagine that it isn’t completely dead in the water right now.

During his talk with Kuttner, Bannon railed about what China is up to saying, ““the economic war with China is everything. And we have to be maniacally focused on that.” It’s interesting to note that this is pretty much Bannon’s explosive way of saying the same thing Obama kept talking about when he suggested that we needed to “pivot to Asia.” For the former president, a big part of that was negotiating the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement to engage our allies in Asia. But for Bannon, it means a trade war with China—something that would do great damage to American consumers, who would be hit with much higher prices as a result.

In summary, liberals shouldn’t get suckered into the game Bannon is playing. He has focused on inciting racism while pushing trade policies that would devastate working- and middle-class Americans.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.