The White House has many new individuals prowling around it that are reasonable causes for alarm, suspicion and fear. I believe Steve Bannon is among the most dangerous.
Prior to joining Trump’s campaign as Chief Executive, Bannon operated Breitbart. The publication has been excoriated by virtually every left-leaning news outlet, with journalists decrying its fear-mongering and liberal use of alternative facts. In 2016, Bannon referred to Breitbart as “the platform of the alt-right.”
It was on this credential, perhaps as well as his background in Wall Street, that Trump brought Bannon onto his team, and the move paid off. Through Breitbart-style nationalistic rhetoric, Donald Trump amassed a gigantic support base and became president of the United States. Of course, there were circumstantial contributions to Trump’s victory that had little to do with the decisions of his campaign, but Bannon evidently understood how to take advantage of them. As a thanks, Trump appointed Bannon to White House Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor to the President. A week later, he was appointed to the Principals Committee of the National Security Council, which helps decide if our country goes to war or not, and other matters of similar gravity.
While I don’t doubt Trump’s independent ability to wild out, I believe Bannon will exercise just as much influence over him now as he did on the campaign trail. This is not unprecedented in the American political arena. Henry Kissinger, Karl Rove and Dick Cheney each had the ear of the presidents they worked for, and their advice on domestic and international policy was taken quite seriously. With such a meteoric ascendance to power, Bannon is in a solid position to take on a similar role.
What scares me most about Bannon is that he does not appear to simply be power hungry, but desperate to mold the world according to his vision. In a 2014 talk published by Buzzfeed, Bannon shared a grim outlook of the future: “There is a major war brewing, a war that’s already global. It’s going global in scale, and today’s technology, today’s media, today’s access to weapons of mass destruction, it’s going to lead to a global conflict that I believe has to be confronted today. Every day that we refuse to look at this as what it is, and the scale of it, and really the viciousness of it, will be a day where you will rue that we didn’t act.”
His words portray an imminent apocalypse that may only be mitigated with aggressive actions by the United States. Bannon is an expert at taking such fears and using them as fuel for the growing alt-right. The success of Breitbart, the third most-read conservative news outlet, as well as Trump’s presidential campaign, provide sufficient evidence for this fact. And in only one week, we are already starting to see such actions: Trump has disregarded the Jewish experience in the Holocaust, attempted to ban Muslims from the country and moved forward with plans to build a border wall with Mexico. It is as if he’s a series of Breitbart headlines manifested in human form.
None of this is to say that Bannon is the singular sinister character in Trump’s administration. The crew of investment bankers, hardline conservatives and unqualified doctors he’s collected is formidable, and we must resist them each and every day. But as he has already shown, Bannon is uniquely positioned to influence the president and may use Trump to push his own flavor of depraved xenophobia and racism — and in turn, push us towards the chaos he claims is imminent, and ostensibly hopes to avoid.