I am not a regular C-SPAN viewer, although, much to the annoyance of my spouse, I am a compulsive channel surfer. The other day I stumbled upon C-SPAN’s coverage of a speech given by Steve Bannon at the recent ultraconservative CPAC conference. I watched about five minutes of it before surfing away in bemused alarm.
I’m not sure “conservative” is the correct term to describe what the annual Conservative Political Action Conference is now about. My sense is that, in years past, it drew a cross-section of American conservatives, but it now appears wholly devoted to Donald Trump’s grievance-driven populism. Bannon, recently convicted of failing to obey a congressional subpoena from the committee investigating the January 6 riot at the Capitol, allegedly had a hand in coordinating that violence. Bannon had already been indicted for pocketing money donated to finish construction of the border wall, but Trump pardoned him for that before leaving office. Does anyone doubt Trump will pardon everyone involved in the January 6 catastrophe if he wins the presidency again?
Bannon’s exhortation to the conference audience focused on the well-worn issues of supposed election fraud, the machinations of the “administrative state,” the mainstream media’s leftist agenda, immigration, and the financial fraud practiced by bankers and corporatists—often called “globalists”—who are responsible for destroying the middle class. Bannon traced his own “awakening” about those facts to the financial crisis of 2009. The Obama-orchestrated bailout of the financial system, Bannon argued, left the fat cats even fatter while immiserating the majority of patriotic Americans. He praised Trump for speaking and acting in the interest of ordinary Americans as opposed to the corrupt and arrogant elites in both parties. Trump’s followers will have to be 120 percent committed to the forthcoming battle or the nation will continue to fail and the forces of wealth, privilege, and cultural arrogance will triumph.