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Darkness at the Twilights: "Devil's Bargain" in American Politics? Darkness at the Twilights: "Devil's Bargain" in American Politics?
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2017-07-25 08:30:48
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“America is a shining city on the hill”
President Ronald Reagan

“Darkness is good…Don’t let up”
                                      --Steve Bannon to Donald Trump

To get a clearer idea of how far down the hill American politics have tumbled, all we need to do is to pause and reflect on the two quotes above, and then peruse the recently released anticipated book by journalist Joshua Green on Steve Bannon and the rise of Trump to the US presidency. The book’s title is Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump and the Storming of the Presidency.

The reader will remember that I have mentioned Bannon repeatedly in my “Columns on the Caligula Presidency” and have even written a couple of articles on his bizarre theories. See: http://www.ovimagazine.com/art/14293, http://www.ovimagazine.com/art/14445. There is another such article on its way on the Pope’s condemnation of Bannon’s “catholic theories.” Stay tuned.

Like the book we are about to survey, the two quotes convey the enormous political ideological journey downward the Republican party has traveled within 30 short years. It couldn’t be more clear: we have traveled backward, from light, or at least a desire for the light, to darkness celebrated as something good and desirable. Are there echoes here of Darkness at Noon by British novelist Arthur Koestler (1940)?

Those are interesting speculations, but the crucial question is: How have we managed to reach such a sad state of affairs? Here the book in question could provide useful suggestions. In the first place the book debunks the myth that Bannon, whom some have called the shadow president of America, is the Rasputin of the White House spinning Apocalyptic conspiracies and directing the chaotic traffic of Trump’s White House West Wing. He may be that, but he is much more menacing. While he may be at the center of the palace intrigues at the WH, he is also a discerning barometer by which we can determine who is in favor and who is out of favor. The pendulum seems to swing between the nationalists and the globalists.

Naturally Bannon champions the nationalists when it comes to immigration or trade, but his overall theory dictates the dismantling of the American checks and balances systemand the embracing of a crude populism which appears as anti-elitism and anti-privilege but is in reality a cover to consolidate the power and influence of the 10% privileged citizens of the Republic. At least that’s the case for Trump who has no ideas and incapable of an ideology. The two men are in fact using each other. Bannon’s is the mind-set of the consummate fanatical ideologue intersecting at the right moment with that of the charlatan opportunistic deal-maker presenting itself as an empty suit  hungry for power and wealth.

In that respect Bannon, as a brilliant ideologue crashing on the American political scene from its fringes, may have already done enough ruinous damage on the GOP and the country in general, which may continue even without Trump as standard bearer. The ultimate aim, even independent of Trump, seems to be that of reshaping the Republican party, a strategy that Bannon had envisioned even before he joined the Trump entourage. Even more than reshaping it, it aims at its destruction.

How will this demolition project work? Here again Green’s book provides some hints. It suggests that we ought to begin the analysis in 2012 when Bannon took over the far-right news site Breitbart. Immediately one notices the nativist populism of Bannon’s views. There was also an apparent enthusiasm to attack all globalist Republicans. One of the targets was Paul Ryan portrayed as a secret admirer of the Clintons.

This situation escalated rapidly once Bannon was on board the Trump campaign in the summer of 2016. It went far beyond the expulsion of ideological enemies from the Republican party. In the fall of 2016 Trump begins to channel Bannon conspiratorial world view tying it to Hillary Clinton’s global power structure responsible for the robbing of the working class in America, stripped it of its wealth and put the money in the pockets of large corporations. Of course Trump presented himself not as integral part of such power structure but as the champion of the poor and disadvantaged. Populism and nativism worked to perfection on people whose wages had stagnated since the Reagan years in the 80s. Trump would lead them from victory to victory, to the point that they would get tired of winning. Spoken as a genuine, used car salesman. Jews smelled anti-Semitism immediately in this Bannonian ideology and protested it vehemently, to which Bannon reportedly retorted that “darkness is good,” and then advised Trump: “don’t let up.”

Examining the first six months of Trump’s presidency, one must sadly conclude that the darkness far from letting up, has progressed incrementally. The GOP and American democracy in general are now in the process of accommodating themselves to it, while Bannon boasts that he has provided a platform for the alt-right. That in effect translates in sexual bias, racism, xenophobia, and nativism.

Bannon’s darkness seems to be enveloping more and more of the proverbial shining city on the hill. Previous fringe ideas, especially conspiracy theories on the Democratic party (“The Deep State” theory is one of them), or on refugees, or on globalists, are now gaining mainstream status and deemed respectable. Scapegoating, incivility and disrespect for truth and honesty are rampant. That may do more damage and lasting impact to American pluralistic democracy than Trump’s deranged personality itself.

The book overall conveys a sense of reductive determinism redolent of the historical theories of Bannon at the expense of human freedom which may still be able to reverse the situation. That may well be the greatest weakness of the book. Without human freedom hope becomes problematic. While keeping our eyes open to the reality of the darkness following the crepuscular twilight of sunset, we need to remember that the light of dawn breaks out when the darkness of the night is at its most profound. Do we still dare hope?


Check Dr Emanuel Paparella's EBOOKS
Aesthetic Theories of Great Western Philosophers
& Europe Beyond the Euro
You can download them for FREE HERE!


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