Somebody finally gets Bannon’s Strategy (promptly buries it under economic theory)

Robert Kuttner of the American Prospect just summed up what we’ve been going on and on about as neatly as has been done yet. Unfortunately, he followed up with what very well may be stirring analysis, if you are a professional economist.

First, here’s the brilliantly condensed version of the social identity politics of the now:

If race becomes a prime identity for downwardly mobile white people, well, there still are a lot more whites than other colors in the rainbow. And if Democrats can get baited into defining their prime mission and identity as defending the rainbow, the right wins.

Just so. By increasing the salience of race for white people, we can expect them to start thinking and voting on that identity. And presumably, this has led to a resurgence of the only generic “white” cultural identity America has to offer, Confederacy.

Kuttner is the very same reporter Bannon called to discuss his “economic nationalism,” just before departing the White House. It was something Bannon thought the liberal writer would appreciate — getting tough on China to protect American industry and jobs. Kuttner’s article, then, reads like a point-by-point response to the erudite Bannon’s economic theory:

One of the indicators of the absolute hegemony of the Wall Street view of the world is the standard account of a straw man called “protectionism.” You know the liturgy. You can’t work for a mainstream newspaper or most academic economics departments without internalizing and regurgitating it: Free trade promotes economic efficiency.

It’s not that Kuttner is wrong. Can’t claim to know much about the history of global economics here. It’s that much of the talk of what is going on in the modern era is misaligned. Issues of race are discussed in terms of  “racism,” while issues of economics are discussed in, well, economic terms.  What Kuttner sees is that Bannon is driving for just that, to make his the one party that talks economics, and the Democrats the one party that talks race.

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