The Nationalist Country Bannon So Desperately Craves (Opinion)
On Aug 18 2017, to the surprise of many, President Trump’s Chief of Staff General Kelly was able to convince him to get the administration’s Chief Strategists Steve Bannon fired. Prior to this, Bannon was the President’s campaign CEO and the executive chairman of the far-right Breitbart News. To many, the departure of Bannon might lead to a sigh of relief — his distance from the President seemingly beneficial to the free world. However, that is a grave mistake. The return of Steve Bannon to Breitbart News is merely putting him on the outside rather than the inside, allowing him power to implement the President’s agenda perhaps more effectively than ever before.
However, even if Bannon’s influence on the country disappeared after his departure from the White House, it would have already inflicted many wounds onto our country. For instance, it became clear to the world that Bannon had Trump’s ear when Trump chose to forsake the advice of his daughter Ivanka and his son-in-law Jared Kushner and pull out of the Paris Climate Accords. Not only was this a massive step backwards on our country’s policies towards climate change, it also pulled the United States away from its role as a global power player, which several Trump and Bannon supporters prefer. Bannon, an avid nationalist rather than globalist, led President Trump to shun the rest of the world, embarrassing the United States before the international community.
The damage Bannon has done is far beyond the withdrawal from the Paris Accords. Bannon has emboldened the dangerous beliefs of nationalism within the United States. While the President has shown strong nationalist traits, Bannon has openly claimed to be a nationalist. Nationalism has spread beyond these two figures. In particular, white nationalists have become far more open about their beliefs since the rise of Trump. The alt-right, which possesses disturbing links to white nationalism, helped elect Trump. Even if Bannon is gone from the White House, the alt-right is not going to disappear overnight.
Bannon’s desire to erode many pieces of the governing body of the United States is an additional issue. Numerous offices within the federal government remain empty, as the President has failed to nominate anyone to the respective tasks. Within his first 25 weeks as President, Trump had almost three times as many empty seats in his administration as President Obama had at the same point in time. This lethargic nature of nominations can be accurately attributed to, once again, Steve Bannon — who has professed his desires for a smaller government.
While the damage done by Bannon’s tenure in office might make some relieved that he is no longer the President’s Chief Strategist, the damage Bannon can do on the outside is quite apparent as well. For starters, anything Bannon says will likely be viewed by Trump, who frequently watches Fox News — a well-known right wing news organization. Bannon is also returning to his position as executive chairman at Breitbart News, further spreading his nationalist views. As such, the mere departure of Bannon from the White House will not be enough to end his influences.
This influence spreads far beyond just the news media itself; Bannon can take a more underhanded method of influencing public perceptions and policies. Through the Government Accountability Institute (GAI), Bannon can help push narratives about those he deems dangerous to his nationalist, government-shrinking crusade. In 2015, the GAI published books that tarred Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush as corrupt politicians that eventually spread into the mainstream media.
Even Bannon himself seems to be adamant about his role outside of the Trump Administration. He now sees himself perfectly poised to provide aid to Senate candidates that seem more suitable to push a Trump agenda. He is confident that the brand of populism he is pushing will be a driving force in elections for years to come. Bannon has gained popularity among conservatives, particularly a large percentage of those who voted for Trump.
There is no way to tell how far Bannon will push his luck, but we have strong reason to believe he will. While Bannon is outside of the office, critics of the Trump Administration should still keep up with his continued shaping of the alt-right.
This is an Op-Ed and does not necessarily represent the views of the Skidmore News Editorial Board.