Un néo-jacksonien à la cour des Tudors

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Un néo-jacksonien à la cour des Tudors

On consultera ce texte avec intérêt. Il détaille à partir d’une interview incorporée dans un portrait détaillé la pensée de Steve Bannon par rapport à la carrière du personnage. Il semble indiquer d’une façon très catégorique que Bannon tient un rôle essentiel dans l’équipe Trump, c’est-à-dire dans la présidence Trump, avec mission de faire passer cette présidence d’“accident extraordinaire” en chantier de déconstructuration et de restructuration de l’entité nord-américaine ou états-unienne, cela devant nécessairement passer par la mise en cause de l’américanisme tel que nous le connaissons.

Nommé conseiller stratégique du président, Bannon s’impose effectivement, au travers de ses déclarations, comme l’idéologue du “trumpisme”. A 61 ans, il n’est certes pas sans bagage intellectuel, à partir d’une vie riche déjà de nombreuses expériences, qui l’ont fait notamment expérimenter quelques citadelles de ce Système qu’il attaque aujourd’hui de front : Goldman-Sachs où il passa quelques années, mais aussi la Navy, Georgetown University, Harvard Business School, Hollywood ; ensuite, Bannon s’immergea dans la nouveau monde enfanté par le système de la communication, jusqu’à Breitbart.News, d’où il émergea brusquement, en août dernier, pour prendre en main la campagne de Donald Trump.

On jugera exceptionnel et comme un signe des temps qui devrait compter beaucoup pour nous, qu’un homme venu d’un monde où prolifère la presse antiSystème et où se trouvent les seuls moyens, – mais de quelle puissance ! peut-on juger désormais, – de la communication pour lutter contre le Système, que cet homme se retrouve comme “idéologue-en-chef” de la nouvelle administration US. Aujourd’hui, « Bannon est probablement le personnage le plus puissant dans l’équipe de la nouvelle Maison-Blanche... [...] C’est un homme avec des idées. Si le “trumpisme” doit représenter quelque chose, intellectuellement et historiquement, c’est au travail et à l’action de Bannon qu’il le devra... »

Bannon a un modèle : Andrew L. Jackson, sans doute le premier président (1829-1837) des USA, et l’un des rares sinon l’unique, à pouvoir prétendre répondre pleinement à l’étiquette de “populiste”, d’abord parce qu’il est le premier à rompre avec les élites de la Grande République de l’origine. Bannon est un jacksonien postmoderne, c’est-à-dire anti-globaliste, nationaliste à tendance protectionniste, nécessairement porté à la réaffirmation des principes de souveraineté et de légitimité populaire ; un “jacksonien postmoderne”, c’est-à-dire débarrassé de nombre d’aspects gênants du modèle pour conserver nombre d’autres qui l’apparenterait à une sorte d’antipostmoderne (pour ne surtout pas dire antimoderne, qui a une signification bien plus vaste et fondamentale), et certainement antipostmoderniste selon les normes américanistes, sinon simplement les normes américaines ; ou bien disons, pour faire simple, un “néo-jacksonien”. Le néo-jacksonien dit de lui, même, installé comme stratège-en-chef de la future Maison-Blanche : « Je suis comme Thomas Cromwell à la cour des Tudors… »

Il s’intitule lui-même “nationaliste”, et même “nationaliste économique” mais repousse absolument l’étiquette de “nationaliste suprémaciste” en bannissant toute conception raciste dans sa position. « Les globalistes ont anéanti la classe laborieuse US et ont créé une classe moyenne en Asie. L’enjeu est maintenant que les Américains ne doivent plus se laisser faire. Si “on” [la présidence Trump] tient nos engagements, nous aurons 60% des votes blancs et 40% des votes noirs et hispaniques, et nous sommes au pouvoir pour 50 ans. » Cela signifierait que Bannon aurait compris que le principal problème des USA tient dans ce que le Système, actuellement sous la forme des libéraux, qui a prétendu depuis si longtemps lutter contre le racisme, a en fait, par divers moyens dont l ‘épouvantail antiraciste, entretenu l’antagonisme racial dans les classes les plus basses pour empêcher que ne se forme l’alliance antiSystème mortelle : l’alliance des “petits blancs” et des minorités (notamment noire, mais désormais également hispanique). On verra si le défi peut être relevé.

Bien entendu, ce portrait-interview de Bannon se place dans la seule perspective américaine en affirmant qu’il s’agit de la “deuxième révolution américaine”, – tout cela en employant les qualificatifs avec précaution, car le système de l’américanisme qui ne doit pas nécessairement se confondre avec l'Amérique-comme-pays reste bien en place ; l'on sait évidemment qu'il constitue une force monstrueuse dont la résistance risque bien de contenir, de déformer sinon de briser les projets de Bannon-Trump. Mais cela n’est pas une catastrophe, et peut-être même au contraire car l’essentiel dans cette aventure se trouve dans l’affrontement qui se dessine et il nous surprendrait beaucoup que l’action d’un Bannon suffise à l’emporter ; ce qui compte donc, c'est la vigueur déstructurante et la force dissolvante de l'affrontement entre le trumpisme-Bannon et le Système bien plus que l'issue de cet affrontement, parce que déstructuration et dissolution n'affecteront que le Système qui règne partout...

En d’autres mots, plus le trumpisme façon-Bannon s’affirmera avec des conceptions fondamentales de restructuration, plus l’affrontement sera terrible, et plus le Système se jugera lui-même en danger de s’effondrer, – car c’est bien de cela qu’il s’agit au bout du compte, c’est bien là l’enjeu. Quel que soit l’intérêt des conceptions de Bannon, elles ont surtout comme avantage de rendre encore plus explosive la présidence Trump, et, par conséquent, plus explosif l’affrontement avec le Système. (Le texte repris ci-dessous, à partir d’une rencontre faite le 15 novembre, après la nomination effective de Bannon, a été écrit par Michael Wolff et mis en ligne comme exclusivité sur le site du Hollywood Reporter le 18 novembre 2016. Le titre initial, qui a été modifié pour des raisons techniques est : « Ringside With Steve Bannon at Trump Tower as the President-Elect’s Strategist Plots “An Entirely New Political Movement »)

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Plotting “An Entirely New Political Movement”

“I'm not a white nationalist, I'm a nationalist. I'm an economic nationalist,” Bannon tells THR media columnist Michael Wolff as the controversial Breitbart News chief turned White House advisor unleashes on Hillary Clinton, Fox News and his critics.

In late summer when I went up to see Steve Bannon, then recently named CEO of the Donald Trump presidential campaign, in his office at Trump Tower in New York, he outlined a preposterous-sounding scenario. Trump, he said, would do surprisingly well among women, Hispanics and African-Americans, in addition to working men, and hence take Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan — and therefore the election. On Nov. 15, when I went back to Trump Tower, Bannon, promoted by the president-elect to chief strategist for the incoming administration, and by the media as the official symbol of all things hateful and virulent about the coming Trump presidency, said, as matter-of-factly as when he first sketched it out for me, "I told you so."

The liberal firewall against Trump was, most of all, the belief that the Republican contender was too disorganized, outlandish, outré and lacking in nuance to run a proper political campaign. That view was only confirmed when Bannon, editor of the outlandish and outré Breitbart News Network, took over the campaign in August. Now Bannon is arguably the most powerful person on the new White House team, embodying more than anyone the liberals' awful existential pain and fury: How did someone so wrong — not just wrong, but inappropriate, unfit and "loathsome," according to The New York Times — get it so spot-on right?

In these dark days for Democrats, Bannon has become the blackest hole.

"Darkness is good," says Bannon, who amid the suits surrounding him at Trump Tower, looks like a graduate student in his T-shirt, open button-down and tatty blue blazer — albeit a 62-year-old graduate student. "Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That's power. It only helps us when they" — I believe by "they" he means liberals and the media, already promoting calls for his ouster — "get it wrong. When they're blind to who we are and what we're doing."

On that precise point, The New York Times, in a widely circulated article, will describe this day at Trump Tower as a scene of "disarray" for the transition team. In fact, it's all hands on: Mike Pence, the vice president-elect and transition chief, and Reince Priebus, the new chief of staff, shuttling between full conference rooms; Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and by many accounts his closest advisor, conferring in the halls; Sen. Jeff Sessions in and out of meetings on the transition team floor; Rudy Giuliani upstairs with Trump (overheard: "Is the boss meeting-meeting with Rudy or just shooting the shit?"), and Bannon with a long line of men and women outside his corner office. If this is disarray, it's a peculiarly focused and organized kind.

“I never asked to be outed,” says Kelly, photographed Oct. 27 at Highline Stages in New York City, of her allegations of Roger Ailes’ sexual harassment. “I really want corporate America to be put on notice that this is a problem.”     

It's the Bannon theme, the myopia of the media — that it tells only the story that confirms its own view, that in the end it was incapable of seeing an alternative outcome and of making a true risk assessment of the political variables — reaffirming the Hillary Clinton camp's own political myopia. This defines the parallel realities in which liberals, in their view of themselves, represent a morally superior character and Bannon — immortalized on Twitter as a white nationalist, racist, anti-Semite thug — the ultimate depravity of Trumpism.

The focus on Bannon, if not necessarily the description, is right. He's the man with the idea. If Trumpism is to represent something intellectually and historically coherent, it's Bannon's job to make it so. In this, he could not be a less reassuring or more confusing figure for liberals — fiercely intelligent and yet reflexively drawn to the inverse of every liberal assumption and shibboleth. A working class kid, he enlists in the navy after high school, gets a degree from Virginia Tech, then Georgetown, then Harvard Business School. Then it's Goldman Sachs, then he's a dealmaker and entrepreneur in Hollywood — where, in an unlikely and very lucky deal match-up, he gets a lucrative piece of Seinfeld royalties, ensuring his own small fortune — then into the otherworld of the vast right-wing conspiracy and conservative media. (He partners with David Bossie, a congressional investigator of President Clinton, who later spearheaded the Citizens United lawsuit that effectively removed the cap on campaign spending, and who now, as the deputy campaign manager, is in the office next to Bannon's.) And then to the Breitbart News Network, which with digital acumen and a mind-meld with the anger and the passion of the new alt-right (a liberal designation Bannon derides) he pushes to the inner circle of conservative media from Breitbart's base on the Westside of liberal Los Angeles.

What he seems to have carried from a boyhood in a blue-collar, union and Democratic family in Norfolk, Va., and through his tour of the American establishment, is an unreconstructed sense of class awareness, or bitterness — or betrayal. The Democratic Party betrayed its working-man roots, just as Hillary Clinton betrayed the longtime Clinton connection — Bill Clinton's connection — to the working man. "The Clinton strength," he says, "was to play to people without a college education. High school people. That's how you win elections." And, likewise, the Republican party would come to betray its working-man constituency forged under Reagan. In sum, the working man was betrayed by the establishment, or what he dismisses as the "donor class."

To say that he sees this donor class — which in his telling is also "ascendant America," e.g. the elites, as well as "the metrosexual bubble" that encompasses cosmopolitan sensibilities to be found as far and wide as Shanghai, London's Chelsea, Hollywood and the Upper West Side — as a world apart, is an understatement. In his view, there's hardly a connection between this world and its opposite — fly-over America, left-behind America, downwardly mobile America — hardly a common language. This is partly why he regards the liberal characterization of himself as socially vile, as the politically incorrect devil incarnate, as laughable — and why he is stoutly unapologetic. They — liberals and media — don't understand what he is saying, or why, or to whom. Breitbart, with its casual provocations — lists of its varied incitements (among them: the conservative writer David Horowitz referred to conservative pundit Brill Kristol as a "renegade Jew," and the site delighting in headlines the likes of "Trannies 49Xs Higher HIV Rate" and "Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy") were in hot exchange after the election among appalled Democrats — is as opaque to the liberal-donor-globalist class as Lena Dunham might be to the out-of-work workingman class. And this, in the Bannon view, is all part of the profound misunderstanding that led liberals to believe that Donald Trump's mouth would doom him, instead of elect him.

Bannon, arguably, is one of the people most at the battle line of the great American divide — and one of the people to have most clearly seen it.

He absolutely — mockingly — rejects the idea that this is a racial line. "I'm not a white nationalist, I'm a nationalist. I'm an economic nationalist," he tells me. "The globalists gutted the American working class and created a middle class in Asia. The issue now is about Americans looking to not get f—ed over. If we deliver" — by "we" he means the Trump White House — "we'll get 60 percent of the white vote, and 40 percent of the black and Hispanic vote and we'll govern for 50 years. That's what the Democrats missed. They were talking to these people with companies with a $9 billion market cap employing nine people. It's not reality. They lost sight of what the world is about."

In a nascent administration that seems, at best, random in its beliefs, Bannon can seem to be not just a focused voice, but almost a messianic one:

"Like [Andrew] Jackson's populism, we're going to build an entirely new political movement," he says. "It's everything related to jobs. The conservatives are going to go crazy. I'm the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. With negative interest rates throughout the world, it's the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything. Ship yards, iron works, get them all jacked up. We're just going to throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks. It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan revolution — conservatives, plus populists, in an economic nationalist movement."

Bannon represents, he not unreasonably believes, the fall of the establishment. The self-satisfied, in-bred and homogenous views of the establishment are both what he is against and what has provided the opening for the Trump revolution. "The media bubble is the ultimate symbol of what's wrong with this country," he continues. "It's just a circle of people talking to themselves who have no f—ing idea what's going on. If The New York Times didn't exist, CNN and MSNBC would be a test pattern. The Huffington Post and everything else is predicated on The New York Times. It's a closed circle of information from which Hillary Clinton got all her information — and her confidence. That was our opening."

At that moment, as we talk, there's a knock on the door of Bannon's office, a temporary, impersonal, middle-level executive space with a hodgepodge of chairs for constant impromptu meetings. Sen. Ted Cruz, once the Republican firebrand, now quite a small and unassuming figure, has been waiting patiently for a chat and Bannon excuses himself for a short while. It is clear when we return to our conversation that it is not just the liberal establishment that Bannon feels he has triumphed over, but the conservative one too — not least of all Fox News and its owners, the Murdochs. "They got it more wrong than anybody," he says. "Rupert is a globalist and never understood Trump. To him, Trump is a radical. Now they'll go centrist and build the network around Megyn Kelly." Bannon recounts, with no small irony, that when Breitbart attacked Kelly after her challenges to Trump in the initial Republican debate, Fox News chief Roger Ailes — whom Bannon describes as an important mentor, and who Kelly's accusations of sexual harassment would help topple in July — called to defend her. Bannon says he warned Ailes that Kelly would be out to get him too.

It is less than obvious how Bannon, now the official strategic brains of the Trump operation, syncs with his boss, famously not too strategic. When Bannon took over the campaign from Paul Manafort, there were many in the Trump circle who had resigned themselves to the inevitability of the candidate listening to no one. But here too was a Bannon insight: When the campaign seemed most in free fall or disarray, it was perhaps most on target. While Clinton was largely absent from the campaign trail and concentrating on courting her donors, Trump — even after the leak of the grab-them-by-the-pussy audio — was speaking to ever-growing crowds of 35,000 or 40,000. "He gets it; he gets it intuitively," says Bannon, perhaps still surprised he has found such an ideal vessel. "You have probably the greatest orator since William Jennings Bryan, coupled with an economic populist message and two political parties that are so owned by the donors that they don't speak to their audience. But he speaks in a non-political vernacular, he communicates with these people in a very visceral way. Nobody in the Democratic party listened to his speeches, so they had no idea he was delivering such a compelling and powerful economic message. He shows up 3.5 hours late in Michigan at 1 in the morning and has 35,000 people waiting in the cold. When they got [Clinton] off the donor circuit she went to Temple University and they drew 300 or 400 kids."

Indeed, during the worst days of the campaign, even down to the last day when most in Trumpland thought only a miracle would save them, "I knew that she couldn't close. They out-spent us 10 to one, had 10 times more people and had all the media with them, but I kept saying it doesn't matter, they got it all wrong, we've got this locked."

Bannon now becomes part of a two-headed White House political structure, with Reince Priebus — in and out of Bannon's office as we talk — as chief of staff, in charge of making the trains run on time, reporting to the president, and Bannon as chief strategist, in charge of vision, goals, narrative and plan of attack, reporting to the president too. Add to this the ambitions and whims of the president himself, and the novel circumstance of one who has never held elective office, the agenda of his highly influential family and the end-runs of a party significant parts of which were opposed to him, and you have quite a complex court that Bannon will have to finesse to realize his reign of the working man and a trillion dollars in new spending.

"I am," he says, with relish, "Thomas Cromwell in the court of the Tudors."

Michael Wolff

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