President-Elect Donald Trump has strayed a bit from his "Drain the swamp!" messaging in the wake of last week's upset presidential election, loading his transition team with DC lobbyists and appointing Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus as his White House Chief of Staff.
But lest Trump's most racist and conspiratorial voter base lose faith, his transition team on Sunday announced that former campaign chief executive and Breitbart Media Chairman Steve Bannon will serve as Trump's chief strategist and senior council.
With this appointment, Trump has clearly signaled to his anti-immigrant, Anti-Semitic, and white supremacist supporters that the man behind their primary news source has his ear.
Bannon and Priebus will work as "equal partners to transform the federal government, making it much more efficient, effective and productive," according to Trump's transition team.
Trump's choice of Bannon “signals that White Supremacists will be represented at the highest levels in Trump’s White House," Senator Harry Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson told the Huffington Post, adding, “It is easy to see why the KKK views Trump as their champion."
New chief strategist at White House ran news organization that published all this recently.... pic.twitter.com/Nqmbt9h3ep
— Michael Barbaro (@mikiebarb) November 13, 2016
"We had a very successful partnership on the campaign, one that led to victory," Bannon said in a statement Sunday. "We will have that same partnership in working to help President-elect Trump achieve his agenda."
Former Brietbart Editor-At-Large Ben Shapiro laid out the stakes in a recent op-ed for the Daily Wire. He said that while Bannon once "despised" racism, "Now Breitbart has become the alt-right go-to website, with [tech editor Milo] Yiannopoulos pushing white ethno-nationalism as a legitimate response to political correctness, and the comment section turning into a cesspool for white supremacist mememakers."
Shapiro also warned of a "vindictive" self-promoter who might even be capable of out-Trumping Trump. From the Daily Wire:
Many former employees of Breitbart News are afraid of Steve Bannon. He is a vindictive, nasty figure, infamous for verbally abusing supposed friends and threatening enemies. Bannon is a smarter version of Trump: he’s an aggressive self-promoter who name-drops to heighten his profile and woo bigger names, and then uses those bigger names as stepping stools to his next destination.... He will attempt to ruin anyone who impedes his unending ambition, and he will use anyone bigger than he is - for example, Donald Trump - to get where he wants to go.
"Steve understands the voters, the American people, better than just about anyone," Brietbart Editor Alexander Marlow told the NY Times over the weekend, praising Trump's appointment, but warning that the website would hold Trump to his racist, demagogic campaign promises.
"If Trump runs his administration and honors the voters who voted him in, we're all good," Marlow added. "But if he is going to turn his back on those values and principles that drove his voters to the polls, we're going to be highly critical. We're not going to think twice about it."
In an effort to convince skeptics that Anti-Semitism doesn't count among these "values and principles," former House speaker Newt Gingrich made the case that Bannon has worked in Hollywood and at Goldman Sachs (and must be friendly with a lot of Jews who also control finance and media, right?)
Two quotes you need to read side by side.
1. From Trump
2. From Trump's chief strategist, Steve Bannon
Spread this widely. pic.twitter.com/lKMoDpMW0X
— Sarah Kendzior (@sarahkendzior) November 14, 2016
Bannon, for his own part, has described his politics as "nationalist," rather than white nationalist (a weak designation, see France's National Front founder Jean Marie Le Pen) while acknowledging his appeal to white nationalists. "Look, are there some people that are white nationalists that are attracted to some of the philosophies of the alt-right? Maybe," he recently told Mother Jones. "Are there some people that are Anti-Semitic that are attracted? Maybe."
Mother Jones also points out that Bannon is hardly immune to racist characterization. "[H]ere's a thought: What if the people getting shot by the cops did things to deserve it?" Bannon speculated in the same interview. "There are, after all, in this world, some people who are naturally aggressive and violent."
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) November 13, 2016
On 60 Minutes last night, Trump told Lesley Stahl that he was only familiar with a "very small amount" of racially-loaded verbal and physical attacks executed in his name since the election. "I say, 'Stop it,'" Trump said. "If it—if it helps. I will say this, and I will say right to the cameras: Stop it."
But civil rights organizations decried his appointment of Bannon on Sunday, saying it sent a message to minority groups that their safety and wellbeing is not a priority under a Trump administration.
"The appointment of Stephen Bannon as a top Trump administration strategist sends the disturbing message that anti-Muslim conspiracy theories and White nationalist ideology will be welcome in the White House," said Nihad Awad exeuctive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "We urge President-elect Trump to reconsider this ill-advised appointment if he truly seeks to unite Americans."
CAIR's Islamophobia Monitor include a bulleted list of Islamophobic statements from members of the Trump team, including a July radio appearance where Bannon referred to a Muslim advocacy group as a "front group."
The Anti-Defamation League also issued a scathing statement. "It is a sad day when a man who presided over the premier website of the 'alt-right'—a loose-knit group of white nationalists and unabashed Anti-Semites and racists—is slated to be a senior staff member in 'the people's house,'" said CEO Jonathan Greenblatt.
Under Bannon, Breitbart published a hideously anti-Muslim tract wherein Tom Tancredo wrote that “rape culture” is “integral” to Islam pic.twitter.com/cOKjHaq7IB
— SPLC (@splcenter) November 13, 2016
The Wall Street Journal spoke to David Axelrod, who has held an advisory role to President Obama similar to the role Trump has given Bannon.
"He clearly wields great influence," Axelrod said of Bannon. "The fact that he is not chief of staff implies that he won't control hiring and administrative decisions, but no one knows how this White House will function."
Contradicting Marlow's assurance that Brietbart will be "highly critical" if Trump rolls over on his policy promises, Shapiro, the former editor-at-large, predicted an unprecedented alliance between media and government.
"It's hard to think of a more Republican-media complex than Breitbart and the Trump team,” Shapiro told the NY Times. “I’ll be fascinated to see if there are any points of departure, any points of criticism at all.”