The flurry of executive orders signed by Donald Trump since January 20th was designed to accomplish several objectives.
First, on attaining office, establish continuity between the ‘campaigning candidate Trump’ and ‘President Trump’ by acting to ‘implement’ the most visible campaign trail promises–the ones packing the most rhetorical punch. This should be done without regard to the legality, constitutionality, or practicality of implementation of the orders. These orders should bear the distinct impress of dynamic, purposeful action; their signings should be staged in impressive settings reeking of power; the president’s pen should resemble a sword cutting through legislative red tape. Their failure, their rollback, their rewriting, will obviously proceed in far more subtle fashion, perhaps under cover of the night. In press parlance, the whopper makes it to the front page, the correction finds its way to page seventeen. Red meat, even if tainted, needs to be thrown to the ‘base;’ the resultant feeding frenzy will keep them busy and distracted for a while. Passing laws is boring and staid; it speaks of negotiation and compromise; executive orders execute. Or at least, they seem to, which in the present circumstances might amount to the same thing–at least as far as the spectators are concerned.
Second, when these orders encounter political resistance in the form of citizens’ protests, as they almost certainly will, emphasize the source and nature of the opposition, even if these demonstrations and protests appear to be large and organized: focus on the marches in ‘elite, out-of-touch’ cities like New York and San Francisco; emphasize that the protesters are opposing action and appear happy with the status quo, in direct opposition to the dynamism of the president. (Useful idiots in the media can be relied upon to offer commentary like “these protesters seem to have made up their mind to oppose the president no matter what he does” etc. A few close-ups of women yelling slogans–to emphasize the ‘hysterical’ nature of the protests, and some of black protesters to make the claim that ‘they have nothing better to do’ will certainly make the rounds.) This will also allow the deployment of the usual ‘anti-American’ tropes.
Third, when the orders encounter legal resistance in the form of pushback from legal advisers, civil liberties lawyers, and Federal judges, emphasize again, its ‘elite’ nature: meddling, lying, lawyers; unelected activist judges imposing their self-indulgent wills on the general will of the people; law will now become synonymous with ‘red tape,’ regulations,’ and ‘rules.’ The bureaucratic nature of the legal system will be emphasized.
This is all great grist for the Bannon propaganda mill. The executive orders might not ‘work’ in one sense; they certainly will in another.
These strategies are not new; they are old and honorable members of the Republican Party’s playbook. They will, however, be implemented with unapologetic ferocity by an ideologically determined crew, using all the available machinery–sophistical and sophisticated–of modern communications at hand. The only weakness in this strategy is that it might not have anticipated the resultant ferocity of the opposition to it, and the unintended consequence of uniting an opposition that before the elections appeared disparate and disunited.
8 thoughts on “The Trump-Bannon Executive Order ‘Strategy’ And Its Rhetorical Value”
Terrific post – very clear analysis of Trump/Bannon’s actual aims, as opposed to the apparent objectives of the executive orders. There is one thing you leave out though, and that is the fact that Barack Obama bears part of the responsibility for this sad state of affairs. Because Obama practiced the art of pre-emptive compromise and thus invited the Republicans to oppose everything he proposed – when he indicated his willingness to give up parts of his plans in order to meet the Republicans halfway, they smelled blood in the water, and they, predictably, refused even to listen to him. That put him in a box – he had weakened his own positions to the point where his only alternative was the executive order. That has given the Trump/Bannon circus the prece3dent they needed. We can count on them to make maximum use of it, which makes our resistance all the more urgent.
You are absolutely right; there are plenty of loaded weapons lying around, and Trump/Bannon are going to use them all they can.
And I’d like to add another point. Many of these “Executive Orders” are made to circumvent and vote in the legislature. But Trump should read the law more; his appointment of Bannon to the National Security post DOES require legislative vetting. This will finally give us an opportunity to see what Bannon divulges. Reall good post Samir.
Good point – I can’t wait to see if he really gets grilled. (Thanks!)
For the record,I am opposed to the immigration ban. That said, one only need look at Trump’s predecessor to see where he may have gotten his ideas regarding executive orders. The shoe is on the other foot now, and it hurts like hell,boys and girls.
sounds a lot like how the tea party was formed. other side of the same coin. Let’s set aside who is on the right and wrong side of history, which side has the moral authority, etc. Those can be debated or not debated endlessly. I think you’re right, it will galvanize the resistance, as we saw after a lot of things that Obama did. I think you’re spot on there. and maybe that results in an extreme leftist getting in office next time around. We just swerve harder and harder in opposite and extreme directions with greater force, and that doesn’t feel healthy.