Who is Steve Bannon?

A rainy Sunday on a long holiday weekend was a good time to curl up with a tremendous new political book — “Devil’s Bargain,” written by Joshua Green, senior national correspondent for Bloomberg Businessweek. For those of you wondering who the hell Steve Bannon is, Green identifies him as the missing piece in the greatest upset in political history. The subtitle is, “Steve Bannon, Donald Trump and the storming of the American Presidency.”

This book is the key to understanding the “alt-right” hidden forces that helped bring down Hillary Clinton and gave us perhaps the most unorthodox president in our history. The political world changed in August of 2016 when Donald Trump, watching his chances disappear in the polls, decided on a move that would give us an unpredictable election result. Trump put a political soulmate, Bannon, in charge of his campaign. In doing so Trump “became an exponent of a dark but powerful world view that dominated the airwaves and spoke to voters that others couldn’t see.

“His campaign was the final phase of a populist insurgency that had been building up for years. Bannon, its inscrutable mastermind, believed it was the culmination of a hard-right global uprising,” the author opined. Bannon was correct.

Who is Steve Bannon? Bannon’s claim to fame is web-based Breitbart News, the voice of the alt-right movement, which he has now returned to since recently leaving the Oval Office. Bannon and the alt-rights, Green explains, believe that there is evidence of Western collapse found in the influx of Muslin refugees and migrants across Europe and the United States. “Civilization jihad personified by this migrant crisis,” Bannon said, adding, “We are in an outright war against jihadist Islamic fascism.”

Bannon’s cause is populist right-wing nationalism, providing a return to traditionalism. Perhaps the most interesting part of the “Devil’s Bargain” is the revelation of how the new use of digital media and social networks are now the path to political victory. By harnessing and developing these venues with sophisticated marketing techniques, Bannon and the alt-rights managed to target a profile of previously underestimated, anti-establishment, unhappy nationalists, chomping at the bit for a way to effectively voice their protest against the current course of America.


Surprisingly, a large segment of this now identified group, it turned out, were young people. Election campaigns in America will never be conducted in a traditional manner again. Trump became the voice of the disaffected. The Donald was exactly the force to finally provide the platform for Bannon’s views.

I saw this all coming at my last Maine Republican convention, in 2010, the year Paul LePage was elected governor. (As a consultant in September 2009, I had written the “Paul LePage story.”) The tea-partiers took over the convention. Hundreds of new delegates who had never served before arrived at the Augusta Civic Center and reveled at the “red meat” provided by an outrageous new conservative leader.

The tea party prevailed. LePage and his brash outspoken political personality presaged recent events — the Brexit from the European Union, and now the election of a U.S. president espousing a populist/nationalist view. I understand what has happened, and why it has happened. Most Democrat leaders still do not. They should read “Devil’s Bargain.” The culture war is real.

Unfortunately none of this has solved anything. The Republican Party is at war with itself and opposition Democrats can’t decide whether they are just liberals or progressives. Once again all this proves that extremism is never the answer. We can’t break up families by deporting innocent children of existing illegal immigrants, and we must not deny health care to those most vulnerable. That is not the kind of nation we are. The Republican Party, controlling the House, Senate and the White House, is now faced with an internal dilemma: embrace extreme approaches to our nations’ problems such as immigration and health care, or instead deliver sensible immigration and insurance reform plans in decisive action. The message is loud and clear: Congress, do your job.

At least the nuclear threat from rouge nation North Korea is something we can all unite upon. War must be avoided. Emerging from this mess came a stirring example of compassion and unity in times of greatest stress. Texas provided hope in stories of courageous rescues, volunteerism and financial contributions from all over the country. More catastrophic weather looms. America’s resiliency will again prove love is eternal.

Don Roberts is a veteran broadcaster, writer and political consultant. He has served Augusta as a city councilor at-large, charter commission vice chairman and utilities district treasurer.

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