Steve Bannon is Donald Trump’s closest advisor — some even refer to him as his Rasputin — and his supposed role as the administration’s ideologist terrifies his opponents. Bannon used to work as an investment banker and media mogul, and is in theory not a renowned intellectual. He seems intent on leading a Manichean battle against the non-Christian world, but what forged his decadent vision of the West?
After meeting a French diplomat in Washington, Bannon revealed he was largely inspired by Charles Maurras, a 1930s reactionary French philosopher and leading thinker of the far-right party of the time, Action Française. Maurras founded an entire generation of nationalist intellectuals, and united a young generation of monarchists around Marshal Petain under the Vichy regime. During his conversation with the diplomat, Bannon quoted one of Maurras’ famous maxims, which distinguishes the “legal country” (the democratic republic and its elected officials) from the “real country” (the people dear to Trump and Marine Le Pen). According to Bannon, Trump represents the flesh-and-blood, natural, real country, pitted against the abstract, far-off, legal country. This distinction upheld by right-wing populists and communists is in fact absurd, as every person in a democracy has a voice, whether real or legal. But it does explain Trump’s obsession with a vote recount, to show that his voters make up both the legal and real majority.
Maurras was a catholic, and had appalling relations with the Pope, two characteristics shared by Bannon, who finds the Pope too progressive. Maurras — who was excommunicated — happily declared he was “catholic but not Christian,” identifying with the church’s hierarchical, authoritarian society, its ostentation and ceremony, but not with its universal, charitable message. Given Bannon’s contact with the most conservative cardinals, we can imagine he thinks the same. Maurras was a monarchist, and while Bannon cannot be, his vision of the American presidency is certainly authoritarian.
If we continue this parallel, we see that both figures define America in opposition to a scapegoat. Maurras’ target was the republic and the Jews, while Bannon’s is Islam. But Maurras did not predict the imminent end of days (although Nazism was a form of Armageddon). Bannon, on the other hand, is waiting for the apocalypse, and might even be banking on it. Let us just hope he does not cause it!