Appointment of Bannon is cause for concern
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.