This attack on careful, orderly, prescribed culture is what happens when the culture stops talking about real things—at least what a significant part of the country regards as real and important. Or, it is—and certainly is inevitably thought to be by those cultural standard bearers under attack—a sinister onslaught against enlightenment itself.
In the view of the latter camp, Steve Bannon, one of the masterminds of the Trump campaign, and the new administration’s “chief strategist,” becomes a preeminent retrograde white male bugaboo. The non-Trump culture can only see him as a threat, and sore thumb, and, without the means to describe or recognize anybody too far outside its circle, a racist, misogynist, anti-Semite. And yet, not that long ago, Bannon would have been a perfectly recognizable figure, even an admirable one, an ex-military and up-from-working-class guy, striving, through three marriages and various careers, to make it, but never finding much comfort in the establishment world, wanting to be part of it, and wanting to explode it at the same time—a character for a writer like Kevin Morris. An American man’s story. Republican politics is filled with such strivers—Lee Atwater, Roger Ailes, Karl Rove—great characters reduced to violations of liberal sensibilities.
Indeed, the election reengages a gender battle that many people on the New York side of the Trump gap had thought was mightily going in only one direction. The vestigial and primitive American man, unreconstructed, baying at the moon (probably high on opiates)—the alt-right in the liberal view—voiceless for many years (or, anyway, wise to shut up), now had Donald “Let me be your voice” Trump. The obvious message of his sudden resurgence of course is that he didn’t go away or reform: He was just shut out. Without any place in upper-middlebrow culture, except as an occasional enemy of reason or subject of scandal, there was no bridge to who he was—no humanity left for him.