Steve Bannon may be gone from the White House, but the agenda he championed is moving forward on many fronts. “If there’s any confusion out there,” Bannon told Bloomberg News, “let me clear it up: I’m leaving the White House and going to war for Trump against his opponents — on Capitol Hill, in the media, and in corporate America.”
In a series of recent interviews, the strategist who spent 12 months at Donald Trump’s right hand laid out the case for putting America first. Bannon said the Republican establishment, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, simply “do not want Donald Trump’s populist, economic nationalist agenda to be implemented. It’s very obvious.”
Bannon took a victory lap following former Justice Roy Moore’s 10-point victory in the Alabama Senate runoff, despite being outspent 15 to 1 by the Establishment candidate. “The populist-nationalist movement proved that a candidate with the right ideas and a grassroots organization can win,” Bannon crowed.
Bannon’s success in helping Roy Moore to his stunning triumph sent shock waves through the swamp, which wants to pretend Trump is a one-time phenomenon that will blow over without catching on. Instead, Moore is another Trump-like figure who promises to shake up the self-serving U.S. Senate.
On 60 Minutes, Bannon gave Charlie Rose a history lesson that children rarely learn. “Economic nationalism is what this country was built on. What built America is called the American system — a system of protection of our manufacturing, a financial system that lends to manufacturers, and the control of our borders.”
The idea of controlling our borders seemed to offend to Charlie Rose, who complained, “We’re all immigrants, except the Native Americans. It’s what people respect America for.” Bannon replied, “You couldn’t be more dead wrong. America was built on her citizens.”
In response to another tired question, “You want a trade war with China?” Bannon pointed out that “China is at economic war with us. Through forced technology transfer and through stealing our technology, China is cutting out the beating heart of American innovation.”
“The forced technology transfer of American innovation to China is the single biggest economic and business issue of our time,” Bannon told Bloomberg Businessweek. “Until we sort that out, they will continue to appropriate our innovation to their own system and leave us as a colony — a tributary state.”
Bannon’s view is supported by Robert Lighthizer who remains inside the White House as U.S. Trade Representative. “CEOs come in to see me continuously,” Lighthizer said recently, “and almost every CEO of a major company will say they’re having a problem with China forcing them into joint ventures, turning over intellectual property, having to license their intellectual property at less than market value.”
Those CEOs won’t complain publicly for fear of Chinese retaliation, so Lighthizer has opened a formal investigation under Section 301 of the Trade Act. That law authorizes the President to penalize countries that violate the rules of fair trade, as China does.
“Expect change,” Lighthizer said recently. “The sheer scale of [China’s] coordinated efforts to subsidize, to create national champions, to force technology transfer, and to distort markets throughout the world, is a threat to the world trading system that is unprecedented.”
In his executive memorandum authorizing the use of Section 301, President Trump condemned Chinese policies that “encourage or require the transfer of American technology and intellectual property to enterprises in China.” China’s conduct, Trump said, could “deprive United States citizens of fair remuneration for their innovations, divert American jobs to workers in China, contribute to our trade deficit with China, and otherwise undermine American manufacturing, services, and innovation.”
As Steve Bannon told Charlie Rose, “Donald Trump, for 30 years, has singled out China as the biggest single problem we have on the world stage.” In an interview with Bloomberg, Bannon said, “the heart of the economic-nationalist movement is standing up to China.”
Lighthizer agreed: “While some politicians can be accused of changing to populist positions to get votes, this cannot be said of the President. If you go back 10, 20, 30 years, or even longer, you see a remarkable consistency. He has been a critic of so-called free trade deals and of their effects on workers.”
Bannon explained that China requires American companies to give “tribute” to that country by sharing our technology secrets. “That’s what it takes to enter their market,” Bannon observes, and they’ve taken “$3.5 trillion worth over the last 10 years — the essence of American capitalism: our innovation.”
After Bannon’s departure from the White House, the aides whom Bannon had previously derided as “the New Yorkers” rolled out a package of tax reforms that will require the cooperation of Congress to enact. But protection of our innovation, the wellspring of American jobs, can be achieved despite congressional inaction and Bannon is paving the road to that success.
John and Andy Schlafly are sons of Phyllis Schlafly (1924-2016) whose 27th book, The Conservative Case for Trump, was published posthumously last year.