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The French Source of Trumpism

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!

  • vous est supposes etres des reporter c’est a dirte des gens qui rapportent la verite. vous ne vivez pas aux USA. moi oui depuis 40 ans et j’y suis heureus et tant mieux pour Trump! vous feireix mieux de decriere les farces de votre gouvernement actuel, mais voila vous avez uneopinion et vous essayer d’en convaincre vos lecteurs… viys feriex nieux de soigner vos problemes d’abord!. allez vous pooster ceci?? biens ur que non, parsque que vous n’etes pas des reporters.

  • The distinction between the dictates of the legal and ‘real’ worlds is important to understand but its effect on ones actions is scary to think about.
    Thank you for that.

  • So Jean Nairalbol has lived in the USA at least 40 years. So what? Merely living here does not make one an expert on anything — especially if one has not obtained a good education and good communication skills (and I seriously question his/hers). I am a tenth-generation American and have had family members who have been active participants in the growth of this country since the 1600s, and I applaud your reporter’s story and insight. I have also been a journalist and deplore/detest the behavior or the boorish person who thinks he’s our president, yet knows nothing and apparently cares less about our Constitution, its values and its guarantees of Freedom of the Press, among others. He’s a would-be dictator who depends on the advice of an individual who seems to think that Party and Power (the Republican mantra) will make this country “great again.” They’re both deluded and very dangerous to our country. I strongly suspect that the Jean Nairalbols of this country will soon have cause to regret their blind support of this unholy duo. And, yes, better to write this in English than in my college-level French in which I would probably make a fool of myself ( à la Jean N) and a hash out of your beautiful language.

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