The Man Who Wants To Blow It All Up
Did you read Time’s cover story about Steve Bannon? Here’s something that made me love that a guy like him is at the pinnacle of American power:
To understand Steve Bannon, you have to understand what happened to his father. “I come from a blue collar, Irish-Catholic, pro-Kennedy, pro-union family of Democrats,” he once told Bloomberg Businessweek. Martin Bannon began his career as an assistant splicer for a telephone company and toiled as a lineman. Rising into management, the elder Bannon carved out a comfortable middle-class life for his wife and five kids on his working man’s salary. Friends say Steve pays frequent visits to his father, now 95 and widowed, at the old family home in Richmond’s Ginter Park neighborhood.
The last financial crisis put a huge dent in Martin’s life savings, according to two people close to the family. Steve watched with fury as his former Wall Street colleagues emerged virtually unscathed and scot-free–while America’s once great middle class, the people like his father, absorbed the weight of the damage.
“The sharp change came, I think, in 2008,” says Patrick McSweeney, a former chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia and longtime family friend. Bannon saw it as a matter of “fundamental unfairness”: the hardworking folks like his father got stiffed. And the bankers got bailed out.
Until then, Bannon had been, as he later put it, “as hard-nosed a capitalist as you get.” Born in 1953, Bannon was Student Government Association president at Virginia Tech, but as he explained in the 2015 interview with Bloomberg’s Joshua Green, he wasn’t particularly interested in politics until he enlisted in the Navy. “I wasn’t political until I got into the service and saw how badly Jimmy Carter f-cked things up. I became a huge Reagan admirer,” he said. “But what turned me against the whole Establishment was coming back from running companies in Asia in 2008 and seeing that Bush had f-cked up as badly as Carter. The whole country was a disaster.”
But there’s this, which is scary as hell:
And yet, he told TIME, he was taken aback when Bannon began to argue that the current phase of history foreshadowed a massive new war. “I remember him saying, ‘Well, look, you have the American revolution, and then you have the Civil War, which was bigger than the revolution. And you have the Second World War, which was bigger than the Civil War,'” Kaiser said. “He even wanted me to say that on camera, and I was not willing.”
Howe, too, was struck by what he calls Bannon’s “rather severe outlook on what our nation is going through.” Bannon noted repeatedly on his radio show that “we’re at war” with radical jihadis in places around the world. This is “a global existential war” that likely will become “a major shooting war in the Middle East again.” War with China may also be looming, he has said. This conviction is central to the Breitbart mission, he explained in November 2015: “Our big belief, one of our central organizing principles at the site, is that we’re at war.”
I met Steve Bannon—the executive director of Breitbart.com who’s now become the chief executive of the Trump campaign, replacing the newly resigned Paul Manafort—at a book party held in his Capitol Hill townhouse on Nov. 12, 2013. We were standing next to a picture of his daughter, a West Point graduate, who at the time was a lieutenant in the 101 Airborne Division serving in Iraq. The picture was notable because she was sitting on what was once Saddam Hussein’s gold throne with a machine gun on her lap. “I’m very proud of her,” Bannon said.
Then we had a long talk about his approach to politics. He never called himself a “populist” or an “American nationalist,” as so many think of him today. “I’m a Leninist,” Bannon proudly proclaimed.
Shocked, I asked him what he meant.
“Lenin,” he answered, “wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.” Bannon was employing Lenin’s strategy for Tea Party populist goals. He included in that group the Republican and Democratic Parties, as well as the traditional conservative press.
Radosh went on to say that when he contacted Bannon about this, Bannon said he doesn’t recall the conversation.
Sam M, a reader and commenter on this blog, strongly recommended listening to this Fresh Air interview with writer Brian Alexander, whose new book describes the destruction of his hometown, Lancaster, OH, by the new 1980s owners of its Anchor Hocking glassmaking factory, who drove it into the ground. Sam M. is very, very right; you need to hear this. Excerpts:
When you can pay a foreign worker a third or less of what you’re paying a unionized flint glass worker in Lancaster, that’s an element, but it’s far from the only one. We seem to have this shrugging-shoulders belief that this is all some sort of natural evolution, like how the dinosaurs died. But what I’m trying to argue in the book is that some of this, at least in part, results from a series of conscious decisions [by] politicians, economists, business people, financiers.
Parents are in jail, so grandparents or aunts or uncles have the kids. I saw just the other day a map of the state of Ohio that showed the percentage of kids who are now a part of the social service system and what the percentage of their parents who are opiate users. In Fairfield County, 58 percent of the kids who are in the system, their parents used opiates. The county next door, Hocking County, it’s over 70 percent. So now you’ve got drugs in the community, which are an escape from all this sort of stuff.
Do I need to tell you which presidential candidate all these despairing white people voted for last fall? This Rust Belt region is what gave Trump the margin of victory.
If Trump, under Bannon’s tutelage, blows up the world — I’m speaking metaphorically here, mostly — then it will have been globalization, and the emergence of an economy that chewed up and spit out people, while the wealthiest profited, that will have brought about its own doom. This is a drama of world-historical proportions. Peggy Noonan says we’re living through “big history.” Aye.