The Hill (Op-Ed)
By Mark Feinberg
April 20, 2017
The reality TV breakout hit of the season — White House Family Feud, starring Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon — is far from over. After the media frenzy of the last two weeks, Bannon’s been cut down to size, and removed from the National Security Council.
Still, he remains a dangerous figure.
Bannon reportedly works 18-hour days behind the scenes to promote a far-right, extremist, white nationalist agenda. He is still officially Trump’s “chief strategic adviser,” backed by insiders like Attorney General Jeff Sessions mega-donors like Rebekah Mercer, and many alt-right leaders (who have made personal and political threats to take Trump down if he fires Bannon).
And with only three months down, Bannon has 45 months to stage a comeback.
Although Ivanka and Kushner are pushing the president to fire him, Trump will be reluctant to cut Bannon loose — his approval ratings are too low to weather the withering propaganda war that a spurned Bannon will unleash.
That is why we must not depend on Bannon’s enemies to push him out. Instead, it is up to us to seize the opportunity presented by Bannon’s current weakness to demand he be fired, as a matter of fundamental principle.
Like every president, Trump vowed to protect and defend the Constitution, and the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency depends on fulfilling that oath. This is why his hiring of Steve Bannon has tainted his presidency from the beginning: Trump vowed to fight enemies of the Constitution, not to hire them.
In the election campaign, Bannon helped transform Trump’s finely honed ability to insult and humiliate opponents into the leading edge of a multi-pronged, strategic propaganda machine: Trump is a “blunt instrument for us,” he said in an interview. “I don’t know whether he really gets it or not.” (Gets what, exactly?)
But instead of thanking the far-right guru of fake news after the election and moving on, Trump brought Bannon with him into the White House, and Bannon moved forward with his white nationalist and anti-establishment agenda.
As Bannon himself has bragged, he shaped Breitbart into a unifying platform for a spectrum of hate, ranging from Tea Party racists to far-right extremist groups like neo-Nazis, Klansmen and white nationalists. The core shared goal among this spectrum of far-right extremist groups is to build a new muscular America as a white ethnostate. Standing together on Breitbart’s platform, they called themselves the alt-right. And by adopting this label, the movement’s leaders saw an opportunity for rebranding and to gain traction in the mainstream of conservative politics.
But the movement is better described as the “hate-right.”
Bannon carefully positioned Breitbart as the hate-right’s central media site without explicitly challenging the Constitution or advocating for ethnic cleansing of non-whites. The site became the premiere, go-to source of outlinks on hate-mongering websites like the neo-Nazi The Daily Stormer. Bannon achieved this by focusing on the movement’s common hatreds against enemies they see as conspiring against white men: non-whites, Muslims and Jews, immigrants, feminists, liberals, moderate Republican “cuckservatives,” globalists and trained scientists.
Bannon concedes that some anti-Semites and racists may be drawn to the Breitbart-sponsored big-tent, but he says that is no different from the way “certain elements” are drawn to the left. Who those hate-mongering counterparts on the left are, he doesn’t say.
Yet Bannon’s false innocence is belied by a series of emails between Bannon and reporter Matt Boyle in 2014 complaining about being left out of a private sit-down with a dozen reporters. Calling Chaffetz a “sniveling little s–t” who deserves to “have his a– kicked in the conservative media,” Boyle argued they should use a scalpel rather than a blowtorch against the conservative establishment: “Let’s play the game with brains here, we can’t just kill them all … annihilate everyone.”
But Boyle’s boss preferred a general conflagration: “Leadership are all c–ts,” Bannon wrote. “We should just go buck wild.” How did Bannon plan to ignite a firestorm? “Let the grassroots turn on the hate,” he wrote later. “Because that’s the ONLY thing that will make [the Republican politicians] do their duty.”
It’s thus predictable that, in the White House, Bannon would be determined to move the hate-right agenda forward regardless of constitutional protections, legal restrictions or democratic norms. Bannon is said to have been the architect of the unconstitutional and doubly cursed Muslim ban; he over-ruled specific legal advice within the administration in doing so; and he has shown a proclivity to use aggressive threats to silence the press and bend members of Congress to his will.
Bannon is of course dangerous in other ways too. He also aims to stop the government from protecting Americans’ health and safety by dismantling the “administrative state”, pulling out of global agreements, and removing protections for workers and families. And Bannon is dedicated to what could become a self-fulfilling prophecy: that a World War III is inevitable in which the (white) West confronts the globe’s 1.7 billion Muslims — and perhaps a billion Chinese as well.
Despite his failures and recent demotion, Bannon remains determined to transform America and the world in his image. Bannon is smart — some say brilliant — and will learn from failure, avoid making the same mistakes and adjust his tactics. In doing so, he will become even more dangerous. He could become perhaps even more dangerous to America in the long run than external enemies like North Korea, Iran or Russia.
Trump’s oath to defend the Constitution requires that he fire Steve Bannon immediately, no matter the political consequences and backlash among the hate-right.
We missed our first opportunity to stop the ascension of Bannon when he was hired as a top White House adviser. We missed our second opportunity when Bannon over-reached and, in essence, appointed himself to the National Security Council.
This time, we patriots of the right, left and middle must persist in a single consistent demand until Trump listens: Fire Bannon now.
Mark Feinberg, Ph.D., is a research professor of Health and Human Development at Pennsylvania State University. Follow him on Twitter @MrkFnbrg
The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.
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