Steve Bannon and Identity Politics
Here’s the good news: President-elect Donald Trump’s selection of Steve Bannon as chief strategist and senior counselor might just make it possible to start having an honest discussion about race in the United States.
The bad news? Progressives may not want such a discussion, preferring, instead, cocoons of unctuous self-righteousness.
Candidly, I view Bannon’s selection to the post as a consolation prize. He is too much of a bull to be let loose in the White House china shop. But Trump didn’t want to kick a loyalist to the curb. So he gave him a fancy sounding job and an impressive sounding title, but no real responsibilities. Although Bannon was the Trump campaign’s “CEO” in the mad dash to the electoral finish line, he was far too polarizing a figure to serve as chief of staff. Reince Priebus’s selection as gatekeeper to the president makes sense. Priebus, outgoing the chair of the Republican National Committee, is a go-along, get-along kind of guy. Bannon is a flamethrower.
So Bannon gets to whisper sweet and sour nothings into the presidential ear. Period. You’d think Bannon was given keys to the nation’s concentration camps based on the caterwauling in the mainstream media. The New York Times has been reduced to broadsheet for the national pity party, printing all the whining that’s fit to print.
Plenty of folks don’t like Bannon. They don’t like him because he’s alt-right, a white nationalist, a racist, an anti-Semite, a misogynist … the list goes on. His presence in the White House inspires panic, even hysteria. He’s become a trope for all the diversity crowd most dreads about that most dreadful of species: white men.
I am glad he has the president-elect’s ear. The identity politicians need to take a long hard look into the mirror he holds. In it, they will see a reflection of themselves.
In case you missed it, it is now morally suspect to be a white male, especially if you are a heterosexual, or not otherwise confused about your gender. (Being a white male can be forgiven if you are gay, or if you demand the right to use female restrooms because you really feel like a woman.)
It is fashionable to claim that white male privilege imposes blinders on the likes of folks like me. We cannot see the suffering of others, or empathize with their struggle, because we’re to the manor born. The assumption, of course, is that being a heterosexual white male renders our world a safe place for us.
This form of cultural politics ignores the reality of class and income inequality. Trump’s genius was to tap the rage of the white working class, a rage fueled by a sense that they should be forced to pay for the fulfillment of others when their own basic needs were not being met.
Identity politicians seek to defrock the white male, to deprive him of his privilege. Diversity is the banner under which everyone else is to gather. It is a tapestry composed of every color but white, every flavor but vanilla.
When a white person defends himself and suggests that his is not a bed of roses, the identity politician is quick to levy charges of white nationalism. It is a dishonest, a disreputable and, in the context of this year’s election, a losing argument.
I’ve never paid a lot of attention to Breitbart or to the alt-right. I’m no white supremacist. I truly believe in original sin and that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We’re all sinners in need of grace.
But I voted for Donald Trump because Hillary Clinton did not look much like an instrument of grace to me. She was a racial panderer, surrounding herself with those gleeful that the Caucasians are becoming a minority in this country. I’d watch Van Jones, a former White House aide, a CNN talking head and Clinton surrogate, opine about the “white vote” as if it were an aberration that could safely be ignored. I felt like a stranger in my own home.
Clinton lost because she decided that white lives don’t matter as much as the lives of others. Did she really expect the white working class to lay idly by?
Trump said otherwise. Bannon helped craft the message. Bannon was white to Clinton’s brown.
Both candidates played racial and ethnic cards in this election, and we all lost as a result.
Bannon is a white identity politician. He has adopted the rhetorical tactics and techniques of progressives who believe the if you’re white, you can’t be right.
Look in the mirror, all ye who drink from the bottomless well of diversity for diversity’s sake: Steve Bannon is your twin brother. If you don’t like what you see, it won’t work to call him a name, he’ll hurl the epithet right back at you.
White men don’t owe the world a thing; you’re not entitled to anything on account of your particular accident of birth. A politics based on character, and not skin color, demands as much.
So let the protestors chant “Not My President.” Let the left deplore Bannon and claim that his version of identity politics is toxic while demonizing white men is, well, merely justice.
If we all hold this course, we can destroy the country. Our leading educational institutions seem contend to do just that. Leading universities cancelled exams after the election – students were too upset to concentrate. At the University of Michigan Law School, an event was planned at which lawyers in training could meet together to color, play with Lego sets and engage in other stressless play.
Thus we become the laughing stock of the world.
I don’t like Steve Bannon. But neither do I like what made him possible. Identity politics and racial pandering separate and divide. If forced to choose, I’ll choose my skin. Who can blame me, if skin is all there is?
We all need to reread St. Augustine’s City of God. We’ve lost sight of the divine and are beholden now to lesser loves, loves which blind us to the hidden power of grace to transform and unite.
I look at Steve Bannon and I see a nation much in need of grace.