So, what is Donald Trump’s real agenda as president of the United States?
How about Stephen Bannon?
I sought answers for those questions this week, and came away thinking that as troublesome as the new White House administration appears to be, it may not be as sinister as many think.
In other words, there is no coup d’etat in progress. Trump will not emerge as a dictator, and democracy will not be lost. The United States will not become another North Korea.
My thoughts at this point: First and foremost, Trump wants the glory of being the biggest boss in the world. It’s a power trip for him. It’s all about image, as opposed to a selfless desire to serve the public. And it’s about making money. As an opinion piece on the U.S. News site with the headline Trump’s real agenda puts it: “(His) actions (so far) reveal that Trump cares more about his wealthy friends on Wall Street than the rest of us, and more about his own appearances than improving the lives of average Americans.”
Writer Ben Olinsky says “Trump’s executive orders (thus far) have fundamental flaws and several of them will make little difference in the lives of most Americans.”
The same superficial veneer cannot be applied to Mr. Bannon, who many feel is the real president of the United States now. The policies Trump is pushing on the nation are, in fact, Bannon’s policies. I seriously doubt Trump has the mental capacity to come up with much more than “You’re fired!”
As Christopher Caldwell says in a New York Times opinion piece today: President Trump presents a problem to those who look at politics in terms of systematic ideologies. He is either disinclined or unable to lay out his agenda in that way. . . . There may never be a “Trumpism,” and unless one emerges, the closest we may come to understanding this administration is as an expression of “Bannonism.”
Caldwell paints a portait of Bannon that is not all bad. “There may be good reasons to worry about Mr. Bannon, but they are not the ones everyone is giving,” he writes.
Caldwell disputes the ideas that Bannon is a fascist and racist. Au contraire, he is a passionate nationalist who cares more about people than money. He believes the political class has worked to enrich its cronies on Wall St. at the expense of the people, and he seeks to tear it all apart and create a system that is more equitable.
He’s something of an “ideological bad boy,” a rebel many in the establishment fear now.
These all sound like reasons to like Bannon. But there appears to be another side to him: his alt-right propaganda tone that reportedly developed after 9/11 and his distrust for Islam — a common feeling among many around the world.
So, after reading these two articles and others this week, I’m not quite so worried about the Trump administration — despite their petty and vindictive attacks on the media. I’m laughing those off now as I see the circulation numbers growing daily for the N.Y. Times and some of the others on Trump’s black list. Trump is inadvertently helping the newspaper industry at a time when it really needs it — I wonder if Trump holds shares in some of the newspapers he is condemning?
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Photo: Donald Trump. (Photo: Marc Nozell/Wikimedia Commons)
I don’t doubt that Trump and Bannon would become tyrants if they could. But, being insulated by the niches of which they have found themselves masters, they underestimate how strongly most of us embrace the American ideals of freedom, equal treatment, and self-initiative. Trump’s team obviously would like the rest of us to think that all who protest are paid shills for George Soros or Barack Obama or the supposedly monolithic Democratic Party. (Haha! The old joke goes: “I’m not a member of any organized political party; I’m a Democrat.”) For once, it seems likely that someone will actually “go broke by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people.”