Bannon's economic nationalist agenda has to be about more than cutting corporate tax rates and regulations to boost jobs and investment. That agenda would not require a wholesale attack on the media and the judiciary, and would place him foursquare in the mainstream of the Republican Party, which he deeply disdains. Jobs have long been the currency of politics--and no one in memory made them as integral to their campaign as did Donald Trump--but Bannon has more in mind than jawboning a few American transnational corporations to build a factory or two in America.
As much as he might play it down, Bannon was not kidding when he said he is a Leninist, and if you are a Leninist, your goals extend beyond bringing some jobs back to eastern Kentucky or the upper peninsula of Michigan. Rather, in Bannon's words to a reporter in 2013, "Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal, too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment." Lenin was not an economic visionary. His goal was power, and his purpose, like Bannon's, was the destruction of the established order. Lenin did not have a coherent plan in mind for Russia's future once he completed the destruction of the old order, and indeed it took Russia decades--until well after Lenin's death--to recover economically from the devastation of the revolution and the civil war that he set in motion. Now that he has reached the pinnacle of power, even as he declared at CPAC that his goal is "the deconstruction of the administrative state," Bannon continues to be opaque about what the nationalist economy might look like after that deconstruction is complete. But it has to be about more than tax rates, tariffs and deregulation; that's pretty banal stuff.
Taken together, Bannon's infatuation with power and Trump's "I alone can fix it" infatuation with himself stand in abject opposition to long-standing conservative principles. Yet, there was Bannon--a man excluded from CPAC in prior years on account of his bomb-throwing affiliation with the alt-right--offering his Trumpian benediction to the gathered faithful: "We are a nation with a culture and a reason for being... that’s what unites us.” Bannon's language remains animated by alt-right nationalism, and his perspective reflects elements of Ozwald Spengler's century old treatise, The Decline of the West, and Samuel Huntington's Clash of Civilizations which when combined together produced the dark tableau at the center of Donald Trump's inaugural address.
Bannon was excluded from participation at CPAC until this year, due to his alt-right affiliation, and his inclusion this year cast a pall of sorts over the proceedings. Dan Schneider, the Executive Director of the American Conservative Union--the ancestral home of the conservative movement dating back to the Goldwater defeat in 1964--railed against the infection of the conservative body politic by the alt-right on the opening day of the CPAC conference. He did not, of course, reference Bannon in his words, but the implications of Bannon's ascendency could not have been lost on many.
Board members of the American Conservative Union were left to grumble amongst themselves about the insurgency that has taken over CPAC. The board may have successfully ousted alt-right notables Milo Yiannopoulos and Richard Spencer from the Conference, but the turmoil in the ranks remained evident.
After a half-century, we are watching the devolution of the conservative movement, as it has fallen in line with a man who is leading less a movement than a cult of personality.
Conservatism is about faith in the individual, not faith in one individual. Over the years, we have heard one president after another call for faith in the nation, for faith in one's fellow Americans, and for faith in God, as we face challenges. Never before have we heard one call for faith in him alone. In speech after speech, he called forth all that is wrong with our nation--more often than not relying on facts made up out of whole cloth or conspiracy theories that he picked up along the way--rather than all that is right. And then he pronounced I alone can fix it. And his followers roared. 1