The Trump budget is an even more devastating assault on Bannon-style populism. It eliminates or cuts organizations like the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative that are important to people from Tennessee and West Virginia up through Ohio and Michigan. It cuts job-training and road-building programs. It does almost nothing to help expand opportunity for the working class and almost everything to serve defense contractors and the national security state.
Why is Bannonism being abandoned? One possibility is that there just aren’t enough Trumpians in the world to staff an administration, so Trump and Bannon have filled their apparatus with old guard Republicans who continue to go about their jobs in old guard pseudo-libertarian ways. (Source)
I'm ping-ponging between seeing Steve Bannon, on the one hand, as just a propagandist with little influence on policy to, on the other, his playing a role like the one Surkov plays for Putin, as I describe it in the previous post. Only time will tell. Clearly, the situation in the U.S. is not anything at all like the situation in Russia, and Trump is no Putin. Nevertheless there are good reasons to believe that, with or without Trump, we are evolving in that kleptocratic direction.
If Trump were not so truly crazy, there would be more reason to fear Bannon's program. There are, of course, good reasons to fear what Trump's craziness might wreak, but it does not look like he will be of much help to Steve Bannon. Trump is too uncontrollable and impulsive to be an effective ally for Bannon and his program, and so it is otherwise looking like 'personnel truly is policy': if Bannon can't get capable people into the policy positions, he can't control policy.
Also, while I am persuaded that Bannon is shrewd in his understanding about what it would take for a populist-driven, authoritarian-Right takeover of US politics, there's little evidence that he has the political skills and insider knowledge to make it happen. He looks to be an ideas guy, not a make-it-happen guy. He perhaps naively believed that Trump could make it happen, but it must be clear to him by now that that's not going to happen. It would not surprise me if Trump were gone by the end of the summer.
So while it's looking less likely, at least for now, that Bannon will get his way, the cluelessness of the GOP establishment is giving sane progressives an opportunity. Ryan's anti-populist, tax-cut cluelessness undermines the interests of the Bannon-Trump base, and so that should give the Sanders-Warren Left an opening to redirect populist energies in a more constructive, leftward direction.
I say "should", but there is no certainty that there is a shrewd, clear-sighted, constituency on the Left that is capable of seizing the opportunity that is being given it by the blinkered cluelessness of the GOP establishment. I've all but given up any hope that the Democratic Party has even the beginning of a clue. Had Sanders won, he would have likely been in the position that Bannon is in now--a man of vision without enough people to call upon who share that vision and who are capable enough to help him to implement it. He'd be fighting an idiocy in the "old-guard" Democratic Party establishment that parallels the idiocy in the GOP establishment.
The inertia that comes from establishment careerism is likely to save us from Trump and Bannon, but who will save us from the establishment careerists?