A Few Thoughts on Bannon, Trump and the Future

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump’s senior adviser, Stephen Bannon, used him as his ventriloquist’s dummy. A few months after the election, Bannon was banished from the White House by the unelected real power in Washington because his isolationist brand of capitalism clashed with their global one. But according recent reports, Trump remains in close contact with Bannon, speaking to him by phone several times a week. Because White House Chief of Staff John Kelly monitors incoming calls, Trump calls Bannon from his personal phone out of Kelly’s earshot. Trump’s ringing endorsement of Judge Moore may have followed one recent conversation.

Along with his ethno-white, “Christian,” ultra-nationalist, anti-immigrant agenda, Bannon sought to cripple or eviscerate federal government agencies, especially those pertaining to the social safety net. That process is well underway. But in terms of reducing U.S. military intervention, Trump has resisted Bannon’s entreaties.

Likewise, Bannon must be dismayed that Goldman Sachs executives (former HRC supporters) are now dictating the administration’s economic policies. The very people that Bannon demonized are now in charge. What about Trump himself? In the words of astute political analyst Bob Borosage, Trump functions as “the barker outside the big tent,” a distraction while all the “grisly deeds” occur on the inside. Sadly, many liberals remain transfixed by a few trees and miss the raging forest fire.

Bannon, the Pied Piper of Right-Wing Populism, now strategizes from his Breitbart bunker, boasting that his future Senate candidates will owe nothing to fat cats, crony capitalists and smug elites from New York City, Washington, DC or Silicon Valley. But where will his money come from? Bannon‘s primary financial backers have been billionaire Robert Mercer (who despises the GOP leadership) and his daughter Rebekah Mercer. The senior Mercer says he “wants government shrunk down to the size of a pinhead,” sentiments shared by Bannon. The Mercers, in turn, will recruit donors among Texas oilmen and tech barons to form Super-PACs.

Bannon has intimated that he has a better grasp of Trumpism than Trump himself, and that’s certainly true. Bannon believes he channels the will of Trump’s base into the president’s mind who then communicates that rhetoric back to the base.

Presumably, this core of supporters would continue even without Trump. If the president, due to sheer incompetence, outright betrayal or self-immolation leading to impeachment, is no longer a viable sock puppet, Bannon will find other willing vessels.

Meanwhile, with only a few exceptions, the complicit, decadent Democrats line their pockets, safeguard their privileges, and desperately seek to regain power. Should they succeed, they’ll resume the policies that got us in this situation.

Bannon, his intra-elite Republican enemies, and the Democratic leadership are convinced the vulnerability of the working class to clever propaganda and relentless manipulation is limitless.

Finally, I raise these issues for one reason: so much turns on the response of tens of millions of Trump supporters whose allegiance should now be in play. Isn’t that responsibility on us?

Gary Olson is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Moravian College, Bethlehem, PA. He can be reached at: olsong@moravian.edu. Read other articles by Gary.