Trump And The Politics Of Attitude

Last week, President Trump ousted his White House chief strategist, Steve Bannon. Bannon was widely perceived as a divisive figure — a self-promoting rabid political attack dog dedicated to “winning” at all costs; a fellow who declared the website he used to run, Breitbart, a forum for the “alt-right.” To put it mildly, Bannon wasn’t well-liked. For months, he had been living on borrowed time at the White House and was marginalized by Trump in favor of now-chief of staff John Kelly, national security adviser H.R. McMaster, and senior advisers Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, among others.

Bannon’s firing caused a bit of a firestorm on the right, particularly after Bannon stated that “The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over.” He meant that Trump’s allegiance to “nationalist populism” was over — that Trump was now surrounded by Democrats and generals.

But here’s the truth: Trump’s nationalist-populist presidency never truly began. Trump was hailed by his allies as a transformative figure, the leader of a new kind of movement centered not around conservatism but around pragmatism. According to Bannon, this meant trillion-dollar infrastructure packages and hardcore tariffs; it meant pulling out of Afghanistan and raising taxes on the rich. It also meant a border wall. Bannon was one of a cadre of would-be philosophers attempting to cobble Trumpism into something coherent.

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