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Trump’s views do not easily map onto the foreign policy ideas of recent generations. When Trump uses phrases such as “America first” or “make America great again” he uses a seemingly familiar vocabulary, while actually drawing on ideas not used in American politics for almost 70 years. The core of Trumpism is more coherently articulated by Stephen Bannon, one of the few genuine ideologues in the administration. In his words: “Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal, too. I want to bring everything crashing down and destroy all of today’s establishment.” For Bannon, “the movement” isn’t just about electing one man, but a worldwide revolt of different nationalist groups opposing a globalist elite. “This whole movement has a global aspect to it,” he noted. “People want more control of their country. And they are very proud of their countries. They want borders. They want sovereignty. It’s not just a thing that is happening in any one geographic space.” In the place of exceptionalism, the emerging “alt-Right” favors a nationalism that sees America as a blood and soil country like any other.

As Bannon sees it, Trump’s election is part of a wider upheaval, the collapse of the divide between Left and Right. In its place has emerged a challenge to liberal technocracy from nationalist populism. Much of Bannon’s worldview has been divined from a speech he gave to a Vatican conference in 2014, in which he cited the Italian Traditionalist philosopher Julius Evola, whose critique of progress and equality inspired Italian fascists. There is a real question about the extent to which Bannon agrees with Evola’s Traditionalism. Certainly its electoral appeal was not lost on him.

Bannon is playing a dangerous ideological game. It is Vladimir Putin, not Donald Trump, who leads the way for those who oppose liberal democracy, liberty and materialism. Autocracies have always feared contagion and the presence of liberal democracies on their borders presents an existential threat for countries such as Russia. By undermining the US-led system of political, economic and military alliances, Trump is removing the constraints on the two major challengers to the democratic world order, China and Russia. America is in danger of becoming a cheerleader for global revisionist nationalism. The administration’s relationship with Russia continues to undermine its credibility. The National Security Council has been thrown into disarray by the shock resignation of Michael Flynn, the National Security Advisor, after allegations that he had misreported his dealings with the Russian government. The White House press office has tried to spin this as a story about Flynn lying to his superiors. The reality may well be different. Flynn’s departure marks the start rather than the end of questions about the administration’s relationship with Putin, in particular what Trump did and didn’t know, or instruct Flynn to do, in the vital period immediately before he took the oath of office. The answer may or may not cost Trump his presidency but it certainly weakens America’s role as leader of the free world.

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