Monday, February 27, 2017

About Steve Bannon

I don't normally find The New York Times a reliable guide to political thought. That said, every now and then they slip up and publish something worthwhile. I just read one such, which I propose to share with you.

Christopher Caldwell writes about the eminence grise of the Trump White House. His subject - Stephen K. Bannon - has been called a racist, an anti-Semite, a misogynist, and a crypto-fascist. According to Caldwell, Bannon is none of these.
There are plenty of reasons for concern about Mr. Bannon, but they have less to do with where he stands on the issues than with who he is as a person. He is a newcomer to political power and, in fact, relatively new to an interest in politics. He is willing to break with authority. While he does not embrace any of the discredited ideologies of the last century, he is attached to a theory of history’s cycles that is, to put it politely, untested. Most ominously, he is an intellectual in politics excited by grand theories — a combination that has produced unpredictable results before.

A progressive who believes history is more or less linear is fighting for immortality when he enters the political arena. A conservative who believes history is cyclical is fighting only for a role in managing, say, the next 20 or 80 years. Then his work will be undone, as everyone’s is eventually.
Bannon is a devotee of the Strauss and Howe cyclical theory of generations. Harvard MBAs like Bannon are seldom radicals, and his was with honors. They are virtually always smart as heck. He was also a Navy officer for 7 years, another non-radical group.