Steve Bannon is probably the strangest character in the rogues gallery that is Donald Trump’s cabinet, an unrepentant white nationalist who has turned the Breitbart website into the veritable Der Stürmer of the alt-right.
Or so we are told.
Lest I be misunderstood, let me say from the outset that Bannon periodically employs a virulent racist discourse. As heir to Andrew Breitbart’s media empire following the Tea Party guru’s death, he ran some of the following headlines.
Here are some notable posts:
Lest anyone be confused about the matter, this is how Breitbart describes the alt right’s ideological heritage:
There are many things that separate the alternative right from old-school racist skinheads (to whom they are often idiotically compared), but one thing stands out above all else: intelligence. Skinheads, by and large, are low-information, low-IQ thugs driven by the thrill of violence and tribal hatred. The alternative right are a much smarter group of people… The origins of the alternative right can be found in thinkers as diverse as Oswald Spengler, H.L Mencken, Julius Evola, Sam Francis, and the paleoconservative movement that rallied around the presidential campaigns of Pat Buchanan. The French New Right also serve as a source of inspiration for many leaders of the alt-right. The media empire of the modern-day alternative right coalesced around Richard Spencer during his editorship of Taki’s Magazine. In 2010, Spencer founded AlternativeRight.com, which would become a center of alt-right thought.
But what if Bannon himself actually does not believe this bullshit? What if he is just an opportunist that invokes this whole discourse as a cover for his true agenda as an alumnus of the Wall Street powerhouse of Goldman Sachs?
In October 2011, Bannon gave a speech at the inaugural event of the Liberty Restoration Foundation about the gains made by the Tea Party in opposing Obama’s agenda. This was a year before Mitt Romney’s ridiculous, flaccid presidential bid discredited forever the wing of the Republican Party that was known for its elitism.
“We wanted a fighter like Ronald Reagan who boldly championed America’s founding principles, who inspired millions of independents and ‘Reagan Democrats’ to join us, and who fought his leftist opponents on the idea that America, as founded, was a ‘Shining City upon a hill,'” said Jenny Beth Martin, National Coordinator of Tea Party Patriots on November 6, 2012 following Romney’s defeat. “What we got was a weak moderate candidate, hand-picked by the Beltway elites and country-club establishment wing of the Republican Party. The Presidential loss is unequivocally on them.”
In his speech a year earlier, Bannon had sounded critical but respectful of these elites. “Since the Tea Party revolt, which the Republican establishment did not support, and if you remember and look back, go to Fox and look at guys I respect tremendously, William Kristol, Dr. Krauthammer, David Frum, George Will, you look at all the intelligentsia of the Republican Party in the conservative intelligentsia, they were mocking the Tea Party, they were mocking these grassroots organizations!”
In reality, the Tea Party was not a grassroots uprising but an astroturfed Koched-out circus. But what’s striking here is just how moderate Bannon sounds in comparison to his current incarnation, sounding less like Goebbels than as a mellowed political guru with a slant towards fiscal conservatism. He also was laudatory of Goldman throughout the speech.
Bannon’s discourse is flavored by a variation of that kooky political economy which corporate Libertarians are so endeared to, a type of Marxism flipped upside down where the 1% are the Elect in a Calvinist sense.
In the Trump administration, Bannon’s role would be to further bail out the 1% via absurd schemes and efforts that benefit Goldman and other financial firms. From privatizing civic infrastructure and institutions to further deregulating the economy, the kleptocracy would go into overdrive.
Since the Carter administration, Treasury Secretaries have been former Wall Street bankers plucked from firms like Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, CitiGroup. They’ve implemented policies that have screwed most Americans and the public is getting pretty sick of it. As Ralph Nader wrote in Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State, we are entering a period where voters from both political parties are becoming increasingly favorable towards policies that threaten the elites.
And so what does their operative in the White House promote to prevent this? Nothing less than this sort of division.