Steve Bannon’s chief goals are outlined in the link below to a recent Washington Post article. Among them is a large strategic vision grounded in national sovereignty. Bannon thinks that Western countries have surrendered ever increasing degrees of sovereignty to international agreements and that the United States should take the lead in showing nations how to recover their autonomy. Thus Steve Bannon wants to renegotiate trade agreements nation-by-nation, with each one having to pass through the Senate on votes, so that they get debated openly. Steve Bannon thinks this is what the founders of the Constitution would have wanted for the country, not international agreements that cede sovereignty. That sounds plausible, even rational. And Donald Trump seems to be exactly the sort of hard-nosed businessman who might do well with such a renegotiation task.
But the psychologically darker side of Steve Bannon’s vision is border-closing to immigrants. He thinks that the world will be more peaceful if nations get hold of their distinct racial and religious essences as nations, and that those differences come to be recognized and respected, not blithely ignored. No more intruding on each other’s national and cultural sovereignty. And he wants to halt the multicultural goal of urban elites (“the Davos crowd”) to transform their countries into mirrors of their largest urban centers, where they end up looking like a United Colors of Benetton ad. So there’s a decidedly racist and Christian nationalist component here; a Karl Schmidt component.
A second component on the dark side of this is a second Cold War, this time with Islamic and/or Confucian civilizations.
So this dual formula–retake sovereignty via newly negotiated trade agreements and closing borders to Muslims, Hispanics, and Chinese–also turns out to be the way, in the United States, for Republicans to pick the lock on rust belt states. Trump won the election: (1) by animating blue collar workers on the matter of trade and sovereignty (who doesn’t want to feel in control of their destiny?); and (2) by animating racists and evangelicals surrounding border-closing and religion.
How successful is this likely to be as electoral strategy and policy in the long run? I suspect that, over the course of fifty years, such a vision cannot sustain itself. Demographers insist that, by the end of this century, 90% of humans will live in cities, and that doesn’t lend itself well to nostalgic and reactionary nationalist politics. Cities tend to be liberal places. And if sea level rise takes on the nature of crisis because of accelerated global warming, international agreements will have to be a key way to address it. Also, if the global economy begins to contract because free trade has become too difficult, the new nationalism will be seen as folly. But over the next decade, this sort of politics will be tried, and its limits for the 21st century tested. (I’m guessing Bannon would say that if individual countries negotiate trade agreements with one another, and that both sides are happy with the results, trade will grow, not be constrained. But I’ve got to wonder what happens if a country gets locked out of a larger trade pact and has to work something out individually with each country in that pact. The logic of trade pacts is strength in numbers, is it not? Or am I missing something?)
As we witness how this plays out, Calfornia will function as a counter-model to Bannon’s vision, with its large population of Muslims, Hispanics, and Chinese Americans–and its media and tech internationalists in Hollywood and Silicon Valley.