Commentary: Rewarding Enemies, Punishing Friends

The post-Trump nationalist-populist movement must learn who its real friends are

My latest column for American Greatness is out.

In his final days, Trump is expending what political capital he has left mostly to help people who are antithetically opposed to “America First” as a concept. Few will benefit as much as Ivanka Trump. Few deserve more scorn than her and her husband.

This piece will probably make people upset. But I’m committed to saying what needs to be said because if there is any hope for a future unburdened from the boot of the bugman, it begins with clarity of sight.

“The specific political distinction to which political actions and motives can be reduced,” wrote Carl Schmitt, “is that between friend and enemy.”

It seems self-evident enough that one ought to reward friends and punish enemies. Nevertheless, Schmitt’s dictum remains relevant because it is so often ignored.

Donald Trump is famous for demanding loyalty. To the Left, that trait is proof positive of his autocratic tendencies. On the Right, it is a badge of honor, indicative of an old-fashioned moral code. Both miss the mark.

Trump demands loyalty but gives little or none. And when he does, it’s often to the wrong people—or at least, the wrong people in the context of his role as the leader of a nationalist-populist movement.

Starting with Steve Bannon in August 2017, virtually every staffer aligned with “America First” as a political concept exited the White House. “I like Mr. Bannon. He’s a friend of mine,” Trump said at the time of Bannon’s resignation. “But Mr. Bannon came on very late. You know that. I went through 17 senators, governors, and I won all the primaries. Mr. Bannon came on very much later than that,” he added.

The president had struck a very different tone just a year earlier. Bannon, said Trump in November 2016, helped lead the campaign to a “historic victory” as an “extremely capable, highly qualified” individual. Bannon went from indispensable chief strategist and senior counselor to expendable latecomer. 

Read the rest here.

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