Update: As expected Reince Priebus was named Trump’s Chief of Staff running the White House operation and Stephen Bannon will be the real “power behind the throne” as chief strategist and senior counselor to the president. As Valerie Jarrett was to Obama, it appears Bannon will be to Trump. Nationalism / populism remains in ascendancy.
Meet Socrates, the controversial, iconoclastic, nationalist / populist who has suddenly risen to become the 2nd most powerful man in America: Steve Bannon became the CEO of Trump’s campaign at a time when most had written off his chances completely. Now Trump is president-elect and news reports say Bannon may become his Chief-of-Staff in the White House. This job will probably go to Reince Priebus.
However, Bannon may have an even more influential role as Senior Advisor to the President, à la Valerie Jarrett in the Obama administration. Many say she has been the real power in the White House with the greatest influence over Obama and administration policy and strategy. Obama himself said he consults Jarrett on every major decision.
So who is Bannon and how much power will he hold over Trump’s presidency and as a result over America and the rest of the world? To answer this we must look at his past and what role he has had in shaping Trump’s campaign positions and campaign strategy.
Bannon became the Executive Chairman of Breitbart News following Andrew Breitbart’s death in 2012. Since then he has turned Breitbart into the most influential media source of the nationalist / populist, “alt-right”. Breitbart news doubled its share of the general news audience from less than 4.5% to 9% in the past 18 months.
“Breitbart News smashed company traffic records in July (2016), generating 192 million pageviews, 31 million unique visitors, and 89 million sessions. Last month’s metrics pushed the conservative news giant to over one billion pageviews so far in 2016–a 28% jump in 30 days from last month’s previous record high.”
It can be argued that Trump adopted several of Brietbart’s (Bannon’s) positions for his campaign. Trump is a smart man, but before naming Steve Bannon as CEO of his campaign on August 17 he was floundering in the polls and lacked discipline, direction, and focus. Trump apparently is not a big picture thinker. He focuses on the details of “getting things done”, on personal attacks, and on using the media for his benefit. He lacked a political philosophy and people weren’t sure if he was a conservative or a liberal. Trump’s past voting and campaign donations record also indicated a lack of political mooring.
But Trump was a listener to Bill O’Reilly on Fox, Brietbart News Daily on Sirius radio, and Michael Savage and the populist / nationalist ideas espoused by them meshed with his own thinking, and when Bannon joined the campaign team he brought definition and a larger intellectual construct to tie together Trump’s ideas about immigration, trade, and establishment elitism. Without Bannon Trump’s campaign would have remained a bunch of disconnected positions without an overarching philosophy to give them broader meaning and allow them to be more effectively marketed to the American people. People no longer cared if Trump was a true conservative or a closet liberal. They knew he loved America, was going to put it first, not globalism, and that he wanted to be the voice of the people, not the establishment and special interests. That’s nationalism and that’s populism. It all made sense and the people liked it.
Prior to joining Breitbart Bannon was a journalist with the Huffington Post. He produced political films, including the documentary “The Undefeated” about Sarah Palin. Before that Bannon served in the Navy, from 1976 to 1983. His daughter Maureen is a graduate of West Point and a lieutenant in the 101st Airborne Division.
Early in his career Bannon was an investment banker with Goldman Sachs from 1984 to 1990. He left Goldman to start his own investment firm Bannon & Company, which he sold in 1998. He attributes both his time in the navy and at Goldman Sachs to his disillusionment with the political establishment and his interest in reporting on politics.
So why do we call him Socrates? Well that’s what many of the callers to Bannon on his Breitbart News Daily show on Sirius Radio called him. Given his sometimes disheveled appearance and iconoclastic attitude toward the government establishment, the moniker fits him well. Like Socrates Bannon is a purveyor of (political) wisdom and an outspoken critic of the government (GOP and liberal elitist establishment).
Bannon himself seemed to encourage the Socrates nickname as he often stated on the radio program that he used “the Socratic method” with callers to draw out the answers to their own questions from within themselves and not simply expressing his own opinion. He did plenty of that too, but always tried to get the callers to think for themselves first.
So whether you call it Tea Party Republicanism, Reagan conservatism, or populism / nationalism, we can see from Bannon’s past that he has the bona fides to give the kind of guidance and counsel to President Trump and his administration that Trump voters want. He may be an unlikely person to rise so quickly to become the second most powerful man in America, but Trump and we the people are very lucky to have him in that role. Together perhaps, just perhaps, they can stop America from careening over the cliff into irreversible decline that the left has been driving us toward in recent years.