Ap­point­ment of Ban­non is cause for con­cern

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OPINION -

Can­di­date Don­ald Trump’s re­fusal to re­ject the “alt-right” — an ul­tra-con­ser­va­tive move­ment that openly em­braces white na­tion­al­ism, misog­yny and xeno­pho­bia — was deeply prob­lem­atic and reck­less. His tacit em­brace of their rhetoric gave voice and le­git­i­macy to an ugly cor­ner of Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal thought.

Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump’s de­ci­sion to ap­point Steve Ban­non, one of the head cheer­lead­ers of that move­ment, as his chief strate­gist is even more pro­foundly dis­turb­ing and dan­ger­ous.

Ban­non headed Bre­it­bart News Net­work be­fore com­ing to Trump’s cam­paign. Un­der his lead­er­ship, the web­site em­braced white na­tion­al­ism, and Ban­non him­self called Bre­it­bart “the plat­form for the altright.” After Ban­non’s ap­point­ment was an­nounced, the South­ern Poverty Law Cen­ter sent out links to sev­eral con­tro­ver­sial sto­ries pub­lished by Bre­it­bart dur­ing Ban­non’s ten­ure, in­clud­ing a de­fense of the Con­fed­er­ate flag after the mass shoot­ing at a black church in South Carolina last year.

Ben Shapiro, a for­mer Bre­it­bart writer who re­signed over the news out­let’s al­le­giance to Trump, said Ban­non turned Bre­it­bart into “the alt-right goto web­site.” Ac­cord­ing to Shapiro, “The alt-right, in a nut­shell, be­lieves that West­ern cul­ture is in­sep­a­ra­ble from European eth­nic­ity.”

While Shapiro em­pha­sizes he doesn’t per­son­ally know if Ban­non is a racist or an anti-Semite, he warns that Ban­non’s goal is to trans­form the Repub­li­can Party into a European-style far­right party that openly dis­crim­i­nates against non-white, nonChris­tian and im­mi­grants, not to men­tion treating women and LGBTQ Amer­i­cans as sec­ond­class ci­ti­zens at best.

Even if one can ig­nore all that and hope that Ban­non will leave the alt-right be­hind, the fact re­mains that Bre­it­bart has contributed sub­stan­tially to the echo cham­ber and an­gry rhetoric that is so un­healthy for our coun­try.

Ban­non’s ap­point­ment has been met, ap­pro­pri­ately, with great con­cern and calls from across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum for Trump to re­con­sider. “The racist, fas­cist ex­treme right is rep­re­sented foot­steps from the Oval Of­fice,” tweeted John Weaver, an ad­viser to Repub­li­can Ohio Gov. John Ka­sich’s 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. “Be very vig­i­lant, Amer­ica.”

A spokesman for out­go­ing Sen­ate Mi­nor­ity Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Ban­non’s ap­point­ment “sig­nals that white su­prem­a­cists will be rep­re­sented at the high­est lev­els in Trump’s White House.”

The most head-scratch­ing part of all this is that Trump at the same time ap­pointed Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee Chair­man Reince Priebus to be his chief of staff. That pro­vided a pensive na­tion some en­cour­age­ment, if for no other rea­son than it showed will­ing­ness to com­pro­mise.

Trump de­clared the two would be “equal part­ners” in lead­ing his White House. Per­haps he en­vi­sions what passed for an an­gel whis­per­ing com­pro­mise in one ear and a devil whis­per­ing chaos in the other.

Trump won elec­tion de­spite feud­ing and in-fight­ing among his cam­paign staff. If Priebus, the con­sum­mate in­sider, and Ban­non, the bomb-thrower, can­not work to­gether, the na­tion is in for a dys­func­tional four years in­deed.

Priebus de­fended Ban­non from crit­i­cism fol­low­ing their ap­point­ments, say­ing he had not seen him ex­press racist or ex­trem­ist views dur­ing their time work­ing to­gether on Trump’s cam­paign. Surely the new chief of staff knows bet­ter than to judge a per­son on more than just a few months of cam­paign­ing.

The alt-right will cel­e­brate Ban­non’s ap­point­ment. The rest of Amer­ica should be ex­tremely con­cerned and ex­tremely vig­i­lant. A fig­ure like Ban­non closely ad­vis­ing an Amer­i­can pres­i­dent is in no way nor­mal or ac­cept­able, but then again, maybe that’s what Trump vot­ers were look­ing for in a can­di­date.

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