There is an interesting and insightful story in The New Yorker about President Trump’s populist guru and former White House chief political strategist Steve Bannon … it includes this gem: “One idea he has floated inside the White House is creating a new, higher tax rate, perhaps for income over a million dollars. He believes that the secret to sell it is to convince the President that raising taxes is a political winner. Bannon has become friends with Gerald Butts, a longtime political adviser to the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. They met in New York during the transition and now talk regularly. Bannon sees Butts as a sort of left-wing version of himself. Last year, as the Prime Minister’s popularity was in decline, Trudeau pushed through a tax hike on the rich, and it helped him rebound … [and] … Bannon wants to sell the idea politically by arguing that it would actually hit left-wing millionaires in Silicon Valley, on Wall Street, and in Hollywood. Bannon is one of the few Republicans in Washington actually to consider what has long been backed up by polling: many working-class voters who support Republicans are in favor of higher taxes on the rich. “There’s nothing better for a populist than a rich guy raising taxes on rich guys,” Butts told Bannon.“
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m glad to see close contact between Americans and Canadians, between politicians, between officials and even between political operators like Bannon and Butts. The Canada-US relationship is central to our very being as a nation: we are friends and good neighbours, kith and kin, allies and more; Bannon and Butts are classic “back room boys,” manipulators of the levers of power ~ it is only natural that they will exchange ideas, isn’t it? Or are there limits? Must Gerald Butts, as NDP leader Thomas Mulcair says, in an article in The Star, ““immediately disavow” his reported friendship with Donald Trump’s controversial strategist and alt-right champion, Steve Bannon?”
Is President Donald Trump’s closest advisor really the person with whom Canada’s prime minister’s closest advisor should “become friends?” Donald Trump (at Mr Bannon’s behest?) has, The Financial Times reports, “reverted to his initial assessment of the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, condemning the violence on “both sides” and shifting some blame away from far-right groups … Speaking in the lobby of Trump Tower on Tuesday, the president said not all of the demonstrators who had come to protest against the removal of a statue dedicated to the confederate general Robert E Lee were white supremacists … [and] … “You also had people that were very fine people — on both sides,” Mr Trump said.” Really? Some “very find people” in this group?
I’m sorry, but anyone who would carry that swastika in any civilized country needs more than condemnation from political leaders. Mr Bannon has been instrumental in what The New Yorker article described as steering “Trump to a narrow Electoral College victory by infusing Trump’s speeches with attacks on “international bankers” and “global financial powers” out to “plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty” (language that the Anti-Defamation League believed was anti-Semitic) and betting on a surge of white working-class votes in the Midwest.” He is a skilled propagandist and he is a master of the sort of ‘dog whistle” politics that brings racial supremacists and neo-Nazis out from the shadows. In my opinion if Gerald Butts is swapping political tricks with him then he is in very unsavoury company.
It doesn’t matter that Mr Bannon has been fired; the damage to Team Trudeau has been done.
Or is it, perhaps, that, deep down, Bannon-Trump and Butts-Trudeau are, in fact, political doppelgängers, two otherwise quite vacuous, valueless sock puppets being manipulated by two masterful, but “value” driven political manipulators? That, actually, makes more sense to me … it explains a lot of what we are seeing in both countries: Trump and Trudeau seem “tone deaf” to the concerns of the majority of Americans and Canadians and each seems focused, narrowly, on an agenda that is broadly, populist ~ left wing populist in Canada, vaguely right wing anarcho-populism in America. It should, also, remind Canadians that we are dealing with this: