Axios: The Book That Shaped Steve Bannon’s Populist Nationalist Thinking

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President Trump’s senior White House strategist Steve Bannon tells Axios’ Jonathan Swan that one his favorite books to explain “the current political moment” is The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy by the late historian and social critic Christopher Lasch.

Swan describes Lasch’s book, originally published in 1994, as “seminal” in shaping Bannon’s nationalist and populist thinking, “his disdain for experts and party establishments, his skepticism on multinationals, his commitment to information warfare and the Breitbart comments section,” and his distrust of the globalist sympathies of coastal elites who have little allegiance to “Middle America.”

Among the book’s key passages highlighted by Swan:

  • “Today it is the elites…those who control the international flow of money and information, preside over philanthropic foundations and institutions of higher learning, manage the instruments of cultural production and thus set the terms of public debate…that have lost faith in the values…of the West.”
  • “The new elites are in revolt against ‘Middle America,’ as they imagine it: a nation technologically backward, politically reactionary, repressive in its tastes, smug and complacent, dull and dowdy.”
  • “Those who covet membership in the new aristocracy of brains tend to congregate on the coasts, turning their back on the heartland and cultivating ties with the international market in fast-moving money, glamour, fashion, and popular culture.”
  • “The parties no longer represent the opinions and interests of ordinary people. The political process is dominated by rival elites committed to irreconcilable ideologies.”

Read the rest here, including the book’s most prescient passage, which explains that “the best qualification for high office may well be a refusal to cooperate with the media’s program of self-aggrandizement” and a political candidate who challenges the media could “command a good deal of public respect.”


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