[Marxism] Trump’s Choice of Stephen Bannon Is Nod to Anti-Washington Base
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Tue Nov 15 09:58:13 MST 2016
NY Times, Nov. 15 2016
Trump’s Choice of Stephen Bannon Is Nod to Anti-Washington Base
By JEREMY W. PETERS
WASHINGTON — In naming Stephen K. Bannon to a senior White House post,
President-elect Donald J. Trump has elevated the hard-right nationalist
movement that Mr. Bannon has nurtured for years from the fringes of
American politics to its very heart, a remarkable shift that has further
intensified concern about the new administration’s direction.
The provocative news and opinion website that Mr. Bannon ran, Breitbart
News, has repeatedly published articles linking migrants to the spread
of disease. Its authors have criticized politicians who do not support a
religious test for immigrants to screen out potential jihadists. And it
has promoted stories that tried to tie Huma Abedin, a top aide to
Hillary Clinton who is Muslim, to Islamic militants.
In an interview, Mr. Bannon, 62, rejected what he called the
“ethno-nationalist” tendencies of some in the movement. His interest in
populism and American nationalism, he said, has to do with curbing what
he sees as the corrosive effects of globalization. And he believes his
enemies are misstating his views and those of many Trump followers.
“These people are patriots,” he said. “They love their country. They
just want their country taken care of.”
He added, “It’s not that some people on the margins, as in any movement,
aren’t bad guys — racists, anti-Semites. But that’s irrelevant.”
Some of Mr. Bannon’s own statements and behavior have drawn the
condemnation of faith leaders and anti-discrimination groups, which
reacted to his appointment with alarm on Monday. Jewish groups pointed
to allegations from Mr. Bannon’s ex-wife that he had made anti-Semitic
comments about the students at his daughter’s school. Critics have
resurfaced other episodes from his past, including a 2011 interview in
which he mocked liberals who criticize conservative women as “a bunch of
dykes that came from the Seven Sisters schools.”
Mr. Bannon’s ascent has quickly become the focus of those critics, who
broadly condemned the choice as divisive, if not racist, on Monday. But
it was also a victory of head-spinning dimensions for a man who is
relatively new to the president-elect’s inner circle. When Mr. Bannon
joined Mr. Trump’s sputtering presidential campaign in August, he
insisted to his friends that even if Mr. Trump lost, he could at least
mitigate any damage to the nationalist movement, which he helped fuel as
the head of Breitbart.
Instead, that nationalist movement — which has promoted and enabled
anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and racist sentiments — will now have a
champion at Mr. Trump’s side in the West Wing.
The place that Mr. Bannon will occupy in the new administration, as
senior counselor and chief strategist, also elevates to one of the most
powerful roles in government someone whose mission in politics has been
to tear down institutions, not run them.
His appointment was intended to be a reassuring signal to the vocal and
restive members of Mr. Trump’s populist, anti-Washington base who are
suspicious of power and anyone who holds it. Mr. Trump is their
champion, but Mr. Bannon is their check against the Washington
establishment and any efforts it makes to soften the new president’s
Mr. Bannon does not come out of the usual political or ideological
backgrounds that have shaped the Republican Party in recent decades. He
is not a religious conservative who is focused on social issues. He is
not a traditional economic conservative. What especially motivates Mr.
Bannon, his friends and colleagues say, is a sense that the country’s
cultural and political elite are contemptuous of ordinary Americans.
That endeared him to Mr. Trump, who never felt he received the respect
he deserved for building such a large political movement.
That “arrogance of the elites,” as Mr. Bannon has said, explains why
most of the media and political class missed the rise of Mr. Trump.
Mr. Bannon’s disgust with the politics of the mainstream Republican
Party burns just as hot as, if not hotter than, his animus toward
liberals. He sees Republicans as the “party of Davos donors” and has
scorned them for denigrating Trump supporters as the “vulgarians, the
hobbits” and “the peasants with the pitchforks.”
He is close to Sarah Palin, and at one point he urged her to take up the
kind of Republican versus Republican battle he relishes: a primary
campaign against Senator John McCain, her 2008 running mate. (She
declined.) He was behind some of the Trump campaign’s most inflammatory
moves, like inviting several women who had accused Bill Clinton of
sexual advances to sit in Mr. Trump’s family box during a debate.
He had never worked on a national campaign until signing on with Mr.
Trump, and has had eclectic taste in careers. He served as a Navy
officer and went into banking for Goldman Sachs. He also helped run
Biosphere 2, the domed ecosystem in Arizona where people lived without
contact with the outside world. Like many leaders of the emerging
hard-right movement, he became engaged in politics with the rise of the
Tea Party early in President Obama’s first term.
He felt that the government’s bailout of the banking system was an
egregious misuse of taxpayer dollars that did almost nothing to help
ordinary Americans. His reason was personal: His father, a former
telephone company lineman, had to sell off stock in his retirement
account to make ends meet.
Mr. Bannon has told people in Mr. Trump’s inner circle that the new
administration will have a short window of time to push its agenda
through and should focus first on the priorities that are expected to be
the most contentious.
Ever hungry for political combat, Mr. Bannon is expected to be an
unrelenting advocate for many of Mr. Trump’s most aggressive plans on
immigration. That involves stopping the immigration of Syrian refugees,
deporting undocumented immigrants with criminal records and devoting
more resources to securing the border.
Mr. Bannon, who grew up in a working-class neighborhood in Norfolk, Va.,
earned degrees from Georgetown and Harvard. He often compares Mr.
Trump’s political rise to that of Andrew Jackson, the military general
and populist hero who took on the political and social elite of his day
as the seventh president of the United States.
While Mr. Trump became the leader of the movement of disaffected
Americans who feel lost and disenfranchised in a nation undergoing rapid
cultural and demographic change, Mr. Bannon has been a student of global
populist trends, carefully tracking the rise of the far-right National
Front in France under Marine Le Pen and the remarkable victory of the
U.K. Independence Party in Britain’s vote this year to leave the
“Steve saw — and was a thought leader and a visionary about — the issues
and the movement that Trump eventually caught on to and espoused,” said
Larry Solov, the chief executive of Breitbart.
“He’s like a field general,” Mr. Solov added, “and very much sees the
fight for the soul of this country as a war.”
Mr. Bannon will take his White House job already at odds with the House
speaker, Paul D. Ryan, an ally of Mr. Priebus’s whom Mr. Bannon has long
sought to undermine. When he ran Breitbart, Mr. Bannon promoted Mr.
Ryan’s opponent in the Wisconsin primary in the website’s news stories
and radio interviews. Mr. Bannon is personally close to members of
Congress like Dave Brat, the Virginia Republican who unseated Eric
Cantor, the former majority leader. He has written that the
appropriations process under Mr. Ryan was “a total and complete sellout
of the American people.”
His former colleagues at Breitbart refer to him admiringly as a “honey
badger” because of his relentlessness — a quality they now expect him to
turn on Washington.
“What drives Steve,” said Joel B. Pollak, Breitbart’s editor at large,
“is the way the political establishment is holding back American politics.
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