To acquire wisdom, one must observe

Bannon has revealing interview with Brandeis professor

An unsurprising wave of white-nationalism and neo-Nazism has swept the country, euphemistically covered under the alt-right banner. No one following the rhetoric of Donald Trump prior to his election should be surprised. There is understandable uproar as the highest office in the land is occupied by a self-admitted racist, drawing false equivalencies between hate groups and their opponents. However, I would like to suggest a few radical ideas in the wake of the president’s “Declaration of Impudence”—that we have witnessed.

Trump’s message resonates with his core base and his constituents not because it is a kowtow to the racism of the silent majority, but because ignorant yet well-intentioned listeners get lost in identity politics. A large swath of the country does not follow the news closely, they just hear the headlines: white-nationalist group clashes with antifa, followed by the president proclaiming there is “blame on both sides.” The issue is that a political movement needs to be easily accessible and understood to gain traction.

Antifa sounds like an obscure special interest group that can fall to derisive and demonizing presidential attacks in the court of public opinion. In truth its name is a truncation of “Antifaschistische Aktion,” an anti-fascist group that traces its origin to the German Communist Party that challenged the Nazis. While the movement boasts a rich history of countering fascists, its name makes it too easy to dismiss as a fringe “alt-left” group.

On the other side are malicious groups branding themselves as innocuous movements equally deserving of free speech and expression. Neo-Nazis become white nationalists, white nationalists become ethno-nationalists and ethno-nationalists become consorts of the alt-right, accepted into mainstream politics. The branding, followed by false equivalency from the president and conservative media, is how Nazis make traction against egalitarian protesters.

The president is a Neo-Nazi apologist but he does not have a thought-out master plan behind his race-baiting, save the joy of being unhindered from any semblance of political correctness. However, that cannot be said for all members of his party. The recently jobless Steve Bannon made clear that he approves and applauds the national dialogue around identity politics.

Bannon discussed his ambitions in a phone interview with Heller School professor Robert Kuttner. Kuttner published the interview in the magazine he co-founded, “The American Prospect.” One of Bannon’s central claims was “the longer [the Democrats] talk about identity politics, I got ’em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.” While this is politically savvy in the most terrifying way, it is at least a step away from using ethno-nationalism as a political ploy—something that even Bannon himself decries. Yet that is exactly what the protesters in this nation are doing, advocating for politics from 1930s Germany—and Bannon is happy to benefit from their incitement of the liberal left if it distracts them from coherent policy and helps the Republicans win elections.

This national debate is not an issue about which two decent people could disagree. There is unequivocally a right and wrong side.

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