NYT Essay On What Bannon Wants


Godsil Notes

An administrative state, crony capitalists, and media as opposition party

Against a nation with a culture and a reason for being

Bannon adds something personal and idiosyncratic to this Tea Party mix. He has a theory of historical cycles that can be considered elegantly simple or dangerously simplistic. It is a model laid out by William Strauss and Neil Howe in two books from the 1990s. Their argument assumes an 80- to 100-year cycle divided into roughly 20-year “highs,” “awakenings,” “unravelings” and “crises.” The American Revolution, the Civil War, the New Deal, World War II — Mr. Bannon has said for years that we’re due for another crisis crisis about now. His documentary about the 2008 financial collapse, “Generation Zero,” released in 2010, uses the Strauss-Howe model to explain what happened, and concludes with Mr. Howe himself saying, “History is seasonal, and winter is coming.”

ut “Generation Zero,” half a decade later, is a strange hybrid. The financial crash has intervened. Mr. Bannon’s film features predictable interviews with think-tank supply siders and free marketers fretting about big government. But new, less orthodox voices creep in, too, from the protectionist newscaster Lou Dobbs to the investment manager Barry Ritholtz. They question whether the free market is altogether free. Mr. Ritholtz says that the outcome of the financial crisis has been “socialism for the wealthy but capitalism for everybody else.”

Think about it,” he said in a talk hosted by the Institute for Human Dignity. “Not one criminal charge has ever been brought to any bank executive associated with 2008 crisis.” He warned against “the Ayn Rand or the Objectivist School of libertarian capitalism,” by which he meant “a capitalism that really looks to make people commodities, and to objectify people.” Capitalism, he said, ought to rest on a “Judeo-Christian” foundation.

If so, this was bad news for the Republican Party. By the time Mr. Bannon spoke, Ayn Rand-style capitalism was all that remained of its Reagan-era agenda. Free-market thinking had swallowed the party whole, and its Judeo-Christian preoccupations — “a nation with a culture” and “a reason for being” — along with it. A business orientation was what donors wanted.

But voters never more than tolerated it. It was Pat Buchanan who in his 1992 run for president first called on Republicans to value jobs and communities over profits. An argument consumed the party over whether this was a better-rounded vision of society or just the grousing of a reactionary. After a generation, Mr. Buchanan has won that argument. By 2016 his views on trade and migration, once dismissed as crackpot, were spreading so fast that everyone in the party had embraced them — except its elected officials and its establishment presidential candidates.

As Ms. Jones sees it, a more reliable key to his worldview lies in his military service. “He has a respect for duty,” she said in early February. “The word he has used a lot is ‘dharma.’ ” Mr. Bannon found the concept of dharma in the Bhagavad Gita, she recalls. It can describe one’s path in life or one’s place in the universe.

For two years, according to Ms. Jones, the two of them worked on the outline of a 26-part television series about seekers after the secrets of the human self, from Arthur Conan Doyle to Nietzsche to Madame Blavatsky to Ramakrishna to the Baal Shem Tov to Geronimo. “It was his idea,” she said. “He assembled all the people.”

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.

Anxieties Re Trump’s “Enemy of the People” Rhetoric

Dear Tom, Alex, and Tim,

I hope we are able to expand this conversation circle! I have always been challenged by the hesitancy of people in our democracy to “give voice” in the forum.

Godsil As “Enemy of the People?”


I have not shared much my experience in SCLC Open Housing marches 1966, during which I was maybe 15 feet away from mobs of infuriated “whites” throwing stones, bottles, a pocket knife or two, eventually torching my 1957 chevy…their faces contorted with a murderous intent, a likely lynch mob were there not scores of mostly Irish, Polish, and Italian cops between us. I understood the why of these enraged, working class folks. But I believed it imperative to advance the rights of choice to our African American brothers and sisters, knowing it would be an arduous process.

Half of my Irish American relatives were aghast at my participation in those marches…many called me N…r lover and dirty hippy(remember Al Capp’s Phony Joaney). Their outrage expanded as I eventually, after reading Bernard Fall, Eugene McCarthy, William Fulbright, James Reston, etc., with much soul searching, came out against the Vietnam War. At a SLU Law School talk, I and Dean Childress were a tiny minority who challenged the shaky premise of that trajedy. I helped found a Peace group which held silent vigils and debates, intensifying belief of my sub culture of origins that I had “gone Commie.”

And then my opposition to the Iraq Invasion of 2002.

I bring these stories forward because I am, like Tom, deeply concerned by the level of “symbolic violence” being hurled across opinion circles. The challenge of extreme and evocative insults and hate speech are probably our fate in USA for generations to come.

But when the President of the USA is a harvestor and catalyst of terms like

Enemy of the People

I cannot help but flash upon that mob in Marquette Park Chicago, egged on by Nazis in uniform, that I know would have murdered me and my fellow open housing seekers, but for Irish, Polish, and Italian cops unhappily, but competently, doing their duty.

In using a Robespierre and Stalinist term…enemy of the people…our President methinks is stoking the fires of “our worst within.”

It is my hope, and my prayer, that our conversations among expanding circles of Baptized Catholics and Ignatians will contribute to a more civil discourse and society.

And Tom’s and my anxieties and worst case scenarios will not come to pass.

Hallellujah work to do,


Last edited by Godsil.   Page last modified on February 27, 2017

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