Steve Bannon may look like he just stepped out of an alley and needs a shave and change of clothes, but he is a Harvard-educated, former Goldman Sachs investment bankster, Navy Veteran, Hollywood documentarian, head of Breitbart News, and the Policy maker who shaped Trump’s disjointed screeds into a coherent populist message that won him the election.
Bannon, not the Trumpster, is focusing and guiding the direction of White House policies and agenda. Operating from his Washington Townhouse, referred to as “Breitbart’s Embassy,” and steps from Trump at any given time, he is bent on shattering the financial and political elites: loathes them— Paul Ryan in particular. But determined to bring down both the GOP and Democrat establishments. Bannon is using the White House to create a populist conservative “unorthodox center-right” movement based on “economic nationalism, anti-globalization, anti-free trade, anti-immigration and job creation by rebuilding infrastructure.” And in the process, make Trump Republicans the dominant party for generations.
Bannon, to the Hollywood Reporter in Nov, 2016:
“It’s everything related to jobs. The conservatives are going to go crazy. I’m the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. With negative interest rates throughout the world, it’s the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything. Shipyards, ironworks…if we deliver, we’ll get 60% of the white vote, and 40% of the black and Hispanic vote, and we’ll govern for 50 years.”
Think he’s over reaching? You sure? Besides, admit it, some of that stuff sounds okay, right? The parts about rebuilding infrastructure, and fixing NAFTA’s egregious terms. And who doesn’t hate Ryan? By the way, Bannon doesn’t want Social Security or Medicare messed with either. So—you can understand why he makes sense to working class whites. Meanwhile he’s exporting Breitbart News overseas—-to England, France, and Germany etc. The strategy of sowing voter confusion to deny traditional party consensus worked well here, now he’s supporting the rise of alt right politicians abroad. He’s just begun to tap into the global tsunami of unrest, as the world’s representative democracies have allowed capitalism to “make people commodities” in which 8 men reportedly now own half the world’s wealth. He calls for an “enlightened capitalism that is really distributed among a middle class.”
More Bannon: a Trump speech, campaigning in Florida in October, 2016.
“It’s a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth, and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities. It is our corrupt political establishment that is the greatest power behind the efforts at radical globalization and the disenfranchisement of working people. The depths of their immorality are unlimited. Our political establishment has no soul.”
You see why churchgoers could vote for the Donald? Despite his unending trespasses, Trump talks about souls. Immorality. And jobs. Crooked politicians and oligarchs robbing the world…class enslavement. But really? These words from a born billionaire? No, that’s Bannon:
“I come from a blue-collar, Irish Catholic, pro Kennedy, pro union family of Democrats.”
He is a self-made thinker and banker who is convinced the world is in an epic battle between good and evil. East vs. West, proletariat vs. oligarchs. A once temperate widely-read intellect with liberal arts tastes who switched overnight to hard line activism after September 11.
Let’s say it, he panicked. He had already felt let down by the mess he considered the Carter administration, then W the lesser caused the 2008 Financial crisis, and now had nearly let the evil East stab us in heart with a few airliners. No more Mr. nice guy for Stephen Bannon.
He is today an ivy-league-educated agitator, comfortable in elite back rooms, and an ardent student of propaganda. He views Hollywood as a crucial tool of indoctrinating the masses: his 2004 documentary on Reagan, “In the Face of Evil,” uses imagery similar to controversial Nazi filmmaker Leni Reifenstahl, and he has said, “I want the be the Leni Riefenstahl of the GOP.” Andrew Breitbart recruited him, and he soon rose to the top of Breitbart News, and has been running it since Breitbart’s death in 2001. He sees us as in a “crisis of the Church… of faith… crisis of the West, and crisis of capitalism.” An absolutist, who believes the West is in an existential struggle against “jihadist Islamic Fascism.” So now you know why Trump signed his draconian ban on immigration: Trump voters love that it deals with Mexican immigrant workers “undermining” them, and the threat of terrorists slipping in. Very popular mid term stance for the right.
“I want the be the Leni Riefenstahl of the GOP.”
They would seem to be an odd couple: what’s the attraction between Trump and Bannon? For one thing, both are from families humble in origin. Trump’s father was a rough soul who fought his way into big NYC real estate construction, and nice guys don’t get there. The Trumps (formerly Drumpf) became Rockefeller rich, but not accepted by old money society. Trump’s mother desperately sought entry to those circles, and was rebuffed, bitter to the end of her days. She lives in Trump. Donald holds the insider elite oligarchs who have never respected him, nor took him and his family money seriously, in contempt. But he needs constant reassurance that he’s a much bigger success than they. Hence the glitter, showmanship, and controversy. It’s all validation to the needy kid calling the plays in Trump’s skull. Bannon understands all that.
Stephen, hating the weakness of the Left in the face of mounting domestic and global issues, and despising the 1% for their greed and destruction of our middle class-based economic system, saw in Trump the perfect foil and front man; a TV star America loved to watch, no matter how outrageous he behaved. Trump was a television program running for office; a reality show gunning for ratings/votes, which today amounts to eyeballs. Bannon saw that Donald could win, once his unfiltered diatribes were focused into a message the working class would hear as “telling it like it is.” That part was easy. Tell them the truth they already knew. And feed the beast; keep them listening by allowing Trump to snark and tweet like a steroid-raging WWE wrestler on speedballs and acid. Toss in voter suppression, Putin and Assange, FBI leaks and the Electoral College—the pieces fell into place, and it worked.
Steve deliberately gives the dark side its due when he speaks.
So don’t let that grubby, unshaven rumpled alky-image fool you. Bannon cultivates it, because it causes the eye to discount him in favor of the shiny Orange bloviating balloon he holds tethered to his ideological string. He deliberately gives the dark side its due when he speaks, knowing it further tends to confuse: he dismisses the White Supremacist support at Breitbart News as simply that they agree with his populist message, denying a racist agenda. (I don’t think he really cares about race as an issue, the battle is bigger than that to him.) It serves to make him seem comic book marginal to stuffy political wonks; tough enuf, to the working class; and a distracting evil Rasputin to the press and us who chatter in public. We watch his (alt)right hand, while his left undermines the GOP on Capitol Hill. He has sophisticated the techniques used at Breitbart News to drive out John Boehner. Some mega industries love his trade policy, others hate it. Meanwhile the Exec directives fly, Congress is flooded with work, and so it goes with momentum and a bully boss whose only negotiating tool is a sledgehammer. Catch us if you can.
He outmaneuvers all. Because he doesn’t plant his feet. He remains sans portfolio, unelected, unimpeachable, un-indictable, unrestrained and largely unknown…but always there, y’know?
And if Trump stumbles too badly, meaning lose middle class support—say by actually shooting someone on 5th Ave out of pique or idle curiosity–or if Establishment GOP someday manage to maneuver him out of office via legalities and the courts, Bannon can turn to the next best-positioned Alter candidate. Who will succeed because the message is still truth to the working class citizenry who empower the movement Bannon is building. Here and abroad.
And here’s what makes him so very dangerous.
Despite his ardent American populism and dedication to restoring the middle class of his youth, he is willing to sacrifice our future, and safeguards in the Constitution and law by unfettering business from regulation, opening public land for exploitation, muffling climate change science, allowing voter suppression and promoting propaganda in disinformation and fake news, standing in favor of military and diplomatic confrontation overseas, while turning a blind eye to Trump’s love affair with Putin (likely centered on investments). He’s a, “We had to burn the village to save it,” guy. “The ends justify the means,” type. But the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. And he’s raising hell now. He’s a panicked guy whose formidable skills have bolted to the dark side, while clinging to a patriot’s self-image, in denial of guilt and shame. Because he is ultimately weaker than those he proposes to inspire.
So what are we dealing with, the intelligentsia are beginning to ask, what is it with this “non-linear cultural warfare” that Putin, and Breitbart (Bannon) et al, are waging? Gaining ground everywhere among the disenfranchised masses. Who is the fulcrum here? Turns out a very smart, dedicated, complicated, disgruntled individual who has achieved remarkable power and success, without incurring any political liabilities.
Except one—Trump’s vanity. Should this wormtongue be outted, openly discussed and acknowledged as the real genius of Trump’s success, the true leader, our ferret-wearing tater tot’s ego would surely compel him to say, “You’re fired, go sit by Paul Manafort.”
But would he go away? Does ink, once poured in water, disappear?