Steve Bannon’s Pop­ulist Party

Steve Bannon’s plan for the next Euro­pean par­lia­men­tary elec­tion.

Vocable (All English) - - Édito | Sommaire - YAS­MEEN SERHAN elec­toral rise in­crease in votes for / in­deed in ef­fect / ten­u­ous slight, in­sub­stan­tial /

In July, Steve Bannon, for­mer strate­gic ad­vi­sor to Don­ald Trump, an­nounced his in­ten­tion to cre­ate a group called “The Move­ment”, an or­gan­i­sa­tion unit­ing the par­ties of the ex­treme right in Europe, in or­der to in­flu­ence the elec­tion re­sults in May 2019. But he has not been met with an en­thu­si­as­tic re­sponse by many of these. A jour­nal­ist from The At­lantic On­line ex­plains why.


no se­cret Steve Bannon has his sights set on Europe. The for­mer White House chief strate­gist an­nounced [in July] that he would be mov­ing to Brus­sels to start a new move­ment—a think tank called The Move­ment—to sup­port Europe’s right-wing pop­ulist par­ties ahead of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment’s elec­tions next spring. His goal, Bannon told the Daily Beast at the time, is to cre­ate a “su­per­group” of united right-wing pop­ulist law­mak­ers within the cham­ber—a feat that will re­quire the in­volve­ment of at least 25 law­mak­ers rep­re­sent­ing at least seven Euro­pean Union mem­ber states. 2. But Europe’s right-wing pop­ulist par­ties may not share his grand am­bi­tions. Alexan­der Gauland, the co-leader of Ger­many’s far-right Al­ter­na­tive for Ger­many ( AfD) party, re­vealed in an in­ter­view that his party wouldn’t be in­volved with Bannon’s ef­forts to unite Euro­pean pop­ulist par­ties—and ap­peared to ques­tion whether any­one re­ally could unite them. “Mr. Bannon will not suc­ceed in forg­ing an al­liance of the like-minded for the Euro­pean elec­tions,” he said.


3. Gauland isn’t wrong. Though many of Europe’s right-wing pop­ulist par­ties share sim­i­lar views on is­sues such as im­mi­gra­tion and the econ­omy—which fueled the elec- toral rise of par­ties like the AfD in Ger­many, the Five Star Move­ment in Italy, and the Fidesz party in Hun­gary—it doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean they have the same po­lit­i­cal goals. In­deed, Ger­many’s lat­est im­mi­gra­tion scan­dal proved just how ten­u­ous such po­lit­i­cal con­nec­tions can be when they’re put

to the test: Though pop­ulist rul­ing par­ties in Italy, Aus­tria, and Hun­gary boast hard-line anti-im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies, all three were quick to op­pose Ger­many’s ef­forts to turn away im­mi­grants at its bor­der, cit­ing the im­pact it would have on their own bor­ders.

4. AfD isn’t the only party that has called into ques­tion Bannon’s ef­forts. In France, a spokesman for Marine Le Pen’s Na­tional Rally said The Move­ment would be no more than “a good, non-par­ti­san tool box” for Euro­peans. “Bannon is an Amer­i­can and has no place in a Euro­pean po­lit­i­cal party,” Jérôme Rivière, the Na­tional Rally’s in­ter­na­tional spokesman, told Politico [in July].


5. This disinterest on the part of some Euro­pean par­ties con­trasts sharply with the em­brace that at least one of those same par­ties ex­tended to Bannon just months ago. In March, Le Pen in­vited Bannon to ad­dress her party’s two-day Congress in Lille. Bannon has made sim­i­lar ap­pear­ances across his tour of the con­ti­nent, mak­ing stops in Rome, Prague, and, more re­cently, the United King­dom.

6. But there’s a rea­son some of these par­ties may want to keep Bannon at arm’s length. In France, Le Pen has long strug­gled to re­brand her party (for­merly known as the Na­tional Front) and dis­so­ci­ate it from the more ex­treme el­e­ments of its past. By invit­ing Bannon, Le Pen seemed to be sig­nal­ing to her sup­port­ers that his suc­cess in help­ing get Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s “Amer­ica First” pol­icy into the White House could be repli­cated in France. But, by hav­ing a con­tro­ver­sial fig­ure like Bannon at her side, she also seemed to be set­ting back her own “de-de­mo­niza­tion” ef­forts.


7. The AfD would have sim­i­lar rea­sons for re­ject­ing Bannon’s ad­vances. Though the party has en­joyed record pop­u­lar­ity in re­cent weeks, it still has to demon­strate that it can go toe to toe with its na­tional ri­vals. Cozy­ing up to a fig­ure like Bannon, who has long been as­so­ci­ated with the po­lit­i­cal mar­gins, may do the party more harm than good. “Trump is in­cred­i­bly un­pop­u­lar in Ger­many among or­di­nary Ger­mans,” Matthew Good­win, a pro­fes­sor of pol­i­tics at the Univer­sity of Kent and a co-au­thor of the forth­com­ing book Na­tional Pop­ulism: The Re­volt Against Lib­eral Democ­racy, told me.

8. Good­win ex­plained that there is an­other, per­haps big­ger, rea­son right-wing pop­ulist par­ties in Europe may be less in­clined to part­ner with Bannon: He’s sim­ply too late. “Many of [Europe’s] pop­ulist par­ties have tens of thou­sands of mem­bers, they are al­ready es­tab­lished. They don’t nec­es­sar­ily be­lieve the Trump play­book is some­thing they need in or­der to find suc­cess.”

(Tom Bren­ner/ The New York Times)

Steve Bannon is start­ing a new move­ment to sup­port Europe’s right-wing pop­ulist par­ties.

(Alain Robert/SIPA)

Steve Bannon and Marine Le Pen at the Rassem­ble­ment Na­tional party con­ven­tion in Lille, March 10, 2018.

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