The NYT's Timothy Egan asks, "What if Steve Bannon Is Right?" What if it's true that "the longer [Democrats] talk about identity politics, I got 'em," as Bannon savored the prospect. "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."
There is reason that Bannon could indeed be right. But what of Egan's proposal? "Some live in the much- discussed zone of despair, places where opportunities for people without a college degree are few.... These folks are persuadable, if the message is economic hope…. Democrats could grab the economic nationalism argument from Bannon, refine it along Bernie Sanders lines, and run with it."
Could they? In analysis after analysis, the irony of modern American politics is exposed. Republicans' chief appeal is that of cultural counter-fighting — they're the ones defending traditional American values — while Democrats, who are actually competent in economic governance, are seen by the Everyman as elitist and culturally radical. That's a perception that will be hard to penetrate and correct.
Could Sanders' economic nationalism help? Egan describes it thus: "Health care for all is pro-American. Raising wages across the country is pro-worker. A moonshot infrastructure program would lift every community." These are all admirable goals, though they're also characteristically void of means to ends. But, in the Age of Trump, in which demagoguery is king, perhaps realistic proposals and sober reflections on enacting them are simply too old school.