American Prospect editor Robert Kuttner is livid that because of the Democrats’ decades-long betrayal of working-class voters on issues like trade and illegal immigration, former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon sees a huge opening to permanently win over these voters who were a monumental part of President Donald Trump’s historic movement in 2016.
Kuttner visited Bannon at the Breitbart Embassy for an on-background conversation last Thursday. He writes in the Prospect that “Democrats, the party of Roosevelt and Truman, of grand public works and strong labor protections, should be making it preposterous for Bannon” to be the champion of economic populism and is astounded that the two parties are “even in contention over who is the better friend of working people.”
But Bannon realizes that for him to successfully “crush” Democrats, he must defeat the corporatist and milquetoast GOP establishment that has often been the Democrats’ best friend by easily allowing the left to portray right-of-center politicians as out-of-touch elitists who have no understanding about the concerns of working-class Americans.
Kuttner points out that Bannon is currently “organizing an electoral machine to Trump’s right, and certainly to the right of the Republican Senate leadership—and he hopes to bring that leadership down.”
“For Bannon, the victory in the Alabama Senate primary of former Judge Roy Moore over Mitch McConnell’s favorite, incumbent Luther Strange, was just the beginning,” he writes of the race that Bannon described as a battle between Moore’s “grassroots muscle” versus “Strange’s corporate money.”
Kuttner notes that after Moore’s victory, Bannon declared: “This is a populist nationalist conservative revolt. It’s a revolt against the elites in this country. It’s a revolt against the globalists among those elites.”
Unlike the bipartisanship for the 3.8 percent that elites like Chuck Todd insufferably are activists for, Kuttner writes that Bannon “continues to look for left-right common ground” on issues that will benefit American workers of all backgrounds.
Bannon told Charlie Rose during his 60 Minutes interview that economic nationalism will be the great unifying force because “as long as you’re an American citizen, you’re part of this populous economic nationalist movement.”
“Economic nationalism is what this country was built on. The American system—we look after our own. We look after our citizen, we look after our manufacturing base,” Bannon said on 60 Minutes. “And guess what? This country’s going to be greater, more united, more powerful than it’s ever been. This is not astrophysics. And by the way, that’s every nationality, every race, every religion, every sexual preference.”
Bannon also told Rose that the Republican establishment has never believed in the economic nationalist agenda that got Trump and elected and is “trying to nullify the 2016 election.”
“I think Mitch McConnell, and to a degree, Paul Ryan. They do not want Donald Trump’s populist, economic nationalist agenda to be implemented,” he said on 60 Minutes. “It’s very obvious.”
After his conversation with Bannon, Kuttner writes that “Bannon believes that if Republicans will just embrace populist economic nationalism, they can become a workers’ party and the majority party for decades to come. He’s been on the road, recruiting primary challengers to knock off Republican incumbents—and carry that populist message.”
Kuttner points out that “Bannon’s current obsession is to blow up Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republican Senate incumbents whom he regards as hostile to his brand of nationalism.” And he acknowledges that Bannon can find common ground with left-of-center voters on issues like Wall Street accountability and trade agreements “that allow cheap labor to compete with domestic labor.”
And Kuttner even concedes that if Bannon can find good economic nationalist candidates, “centrist Democrats could be vulnerable.”
He also thinks that Republicans have no business “electing senators in states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania,” but “as long as Democrats offer messages that blend Wall Street, globalism, and identity politics and fail to deliver a politics of class uplift, even extremist Republicans could keep winning.”
“If Bannon’s criticism of establishment Republicans is withering, his contempt for the failure of Democrats to take on their own Wall Street wing is boundless,” Kuttner concludes.
In a previous interview heard around the world with Kuttner, Bannon told him that so long as Democrats obsess about identity politics, right-of-center economic nationalists will “crush” them.
“The Democrats,” Bannon previously told Kuttner, “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.”