Steve Bannon’s Revenge — And Why the Left Can’t Let Go of Racism

The anti-Trump response seems bent on outdoing the president’s excesses.

 Image result for Steve Bannon, photos

Aug. 28, 2017 6:55 p.m. ET

When Steve Bannon phoned an editor at the American Prospect and unloaded on his White House colleagues, he effectively issued his own pink slip. His offense was particularly egregious because it came right after the president had brought in a new chief of staff to end West Wing behavior like Mr. Bannon’s.

But on his way out Mr. Bannon said something interesting. “The Democrats,” he told Robert Kuttner, “the longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is…

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Why the Left Can’t Let Go of Racism
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Liberals sell innocence from America’s past. If bigotry is pronounced dead, the racket is over.

At a protest in Lancaster, Pa., May 20.
At a protest in Lancaster, Pa., May 20. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

Is America racist? It used to be that racism meant the actual enforcement of bigotry—the routine implementation of racial inequality everywhere in public and private life. Racism was a tyranny and an oppression that dehumanized—animalized—the “other.” It was a social malignancy, yet it carried the authority of natural law, as if God himself had dispassionately ordained it.

Today Americans know that active racism is no longer the greatest barrier to black and minority advancement. Since the 1960s other pathologies, even if originally generated by racism, have supplanted it. White racism did not shoot more than 4,000 people last year in Chicago. To the contrary, America for decades now—with much genuine remorse—has been recoiling from the practice of racism and has gained a firm intolerance for what it once indulged.

But Americans don’t really trust the truth of this. It sounds too self-exonerating. Talk of “structural” and “systemic” racism conditions people to think of it as inexorable, predestined. So even if bigotry and discrimination have lost much of their menace, Americans nevertheless yearn to know whether or not we are a racist people.

A staple on cable news these days is the “racial incident,” which stands as a referendum on this question. Today there is Charlottesville. Yesterday there were the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray and others. Don’t they reveal an irrepressible racism in American life? At the news conferences surrounding these events there are always the Al Sharpton clones, if not the man himself, ready to spin the tale of black tragedy and white bigotry.

Such people—and the American left generally—have a hunger for racism that is almost craven. The writer Walker Percy once wrote of the “sweetness at the horrid core of bad news.” It’s hard to witness the media’s oddly exhilarated reaction to, say, the death of Trayvon Martin without applying Percy’s insight. A black boy is dead. But not all is lost. It looks like racism.

What makes racism so sweet? Today it empowers. Racism was once just racism, a terrible bigotry that people nevertheless learned to live with, if not as a necessary evil then as an inevitable one. But the civil-rights movement, along with independence movements around the world, changed that. The ’60s recast racism in the national consciousness as an incontrovertible sin, the very worst of all social evils.

Suddenly America was in moral trouble. The open acknowledgment of the nation’s racist past had destroyed its moral authority, and affirming democratic principles and the rule of law was not a sufficient response. Only a strict moral accounting could restore legitimacy.

Thus, redemption—paying off the nation’s sins—became the moral imperative of a new political and cultural liberalism. President Lyndon Johnson turned redemption into a kind of activism: the Great Society, the War on Poverty, school busing, liberalized welfare policies, affirmative action, and so on.

This liberalism always projects moral idealisms (integration, social justice, diversity, inclusion, etc.) that have the ring of redemption. What is political correctness, if not essentially redemptive speech? Soon liberalism had become a cultural identity that offered Americans a way to think of themselves as decent people. To be liberal was to be good.

Here we see redemptive liberalism’s great ingenuity: It seized proprietorship over innocence itself. It took on the power to grant or deny moral legitimacy across society. Liberals were free of the past while conservatives longed to resurrect it, bigotry and all. What else could “Make America Great Again” mean? In this way redemptive liberalism reshaped the moral culture of the entire Western world with sweeping idealisms like “diversity,” which are as common today in Europe as in America.

So today there is sweetness at the news of racism because it sets off the hunt for innocence and power. Racism and bigotry generally are the great driving engines of modern American liberalism. Even a remote hint of racism can trigger a kind of moral entrepreneurism.

The “safe spaces” for minority students on university campuses are actually redemptive spaces for white students and administrators looking for innocence and empowerment. As minorities in these spaces languish in precious self-absorption, their white classmates, high on the idea of their own wonderful “tolerance,” whistle past the very segregated areas they are barred from.

America’s moral fall in the ’60s made innocence of the past an obsession. Thus liberalism invited people to internalize innocence, to become synonymous with it—even to fight for it as they would for an ideology. But to be innocent there must be an evil from which to be free. The liberal identity must have racism, lest it lose innocence and the power it conveys.

The great problem for conservatives is that they lack the moral glibness to compete with liberalism’s “innocence.” But today there are signs of what I have called race fatigue. People are becoming openly cynical toward the left’s moral muscling with racism. Add to this liberalism’s monumental failure to come even close to realizing any of its beautiful idealisms, and the makings of a new conservative mandate become clearer. As idealism was the left’s political edge, shouldn’t realism now be the right’s? Reality as the informing vision—and no more wrestling with innocence.

Mr. Steele, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, is author of “Shame: How America’s Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country” (Basic Books, 2015).

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From Vanity Fair
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Stephen Bannon, left, and Reince Priebus, right, at a meeting with Donald Trump at the White House on February 1, 2017.  From Bloomberg/Getty Images.

On the morning he was being ousted as Donald Trump’s chief strategist last Friday, Steve Bannon had already turned the page. “Why do you sound unfazed?” a friend asked Bannon as news of his demise ricocheted across the web. “Because,” Bannon replied, “we’re going to war.” Hours later, Bannon was calling into the editorial meeting at Breitbart News, rallying his troops to continue the battles he waged inside the White House. “We have a duty to the country to be the vanguard of ‘The Movement,’” he told his staff, according to one person on the call. Bannon’s main targets are the West Wing’s coterie of New York Democrat “globalists”—Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and former Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn—as well as the “hawks,” comprised of National Security Adviser H.R McMaster and his deputy, Dina Powell. “He wants to beat their ideas into submission,” Breitbart News Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow told me. “Steve has a lot of things up his sleeve.”

The chaotic, war-torn West Wing of the past six months will be prologue, but the coming struggles will be as personal as they are ideological, waged not with leaks but with slashing Breitbart banners. On Sunday, Breitbart took renewed aim at McMaster, with a headline claiming he advocated “Quran Kissing.” But most of all, there’s a deep animosity between Bannon and Kushner, amplified by a lack of respect. Bannon finds Kushner’s political instincts highly questionable. “He said Jared is a dope,” one Bannon ally recalled. The two clashed fiercely on personnel decisions and policy debates, both domestic and international, many of which Bannon lost. But Bannon, who was the only West Wing advisor to publicly support the president’s response to the violence in Charlottesville, is especially galled at being scapegoated as an anti-Semite in its wake. “It’s one of the attacks he takes most personally because it’s not true,” a Breitbart staffer told me. Bannon’s allies lay out a more complicated backstory. Bannon, they say, lobbied Trump aggressively to move America’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but was blocked by Kushner. And, according to three Bannon allies, Bannon pushed a tougher line against the Palestinians than Kushner did. In May, when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited the White House, Bannon stayed home. “I’m not going to breathe the same air as that terrorist,” Bannon texted a friend.

In the final weeks, Bannon was relentlessly tarred as a prime West Wing leaker, but Bannon’s allies make a similar case about Kushner. Specifically, they believe that Kushner cultivated a relationship with Matt Drudge, who frequently pushed anti-Bannon headlines—“The Total Eclipse of Steve Bannon”; “Bannon ‘Is the Real President”—in the weeks leading up to Trump’s decision to defenestrate him. Bannon also told friends that he believed Kushner encouraged Fox News chairman Rupert Murdoch to lobby Trump to fire him. Last week, The New York Times reported that Murdoch told Trump over a private dinner with Kushner that Trump needed to jettison his chief strategist. The Bannon camp believes that Murdoch was especially receptive to Kushner’s lobbying because Murdoch is worried about the rise of Sinclair Broadcasting as a competitor to Fox, and blames Bannon for Trump’s decision so far not to block the Sinclair’s $3.9 billion takeover of Tribune Media in May.

Bannon has media ambitions to compete with Fox News from the right. Last week in New York, he huddled with his billionaire benefactor, Robert Mercer, and discussed ways to expand Breitbart into TV, sources said. “Television is definitely on the table,” a Bannon adviser told me. A partnership with Sinclair remains a possibility. In recent days, Sinclair’s chief political analyst Boris Epshteyn has spoken with Breitbart editors about ways to form an alliance, one Breitbart staffer said. “All the Sinclair guys are super tight with Breitbart. Imagine if we got together Hannity and O’Reilly and started something?”

Meanwhile, the next phase has already begun. On Sunday, the website’s lead story was based on a Daily Mail report that said Ivanka was behind Bannon’s removal. “Trump’s daughter Ivanka pushed out Bannon because of his ‘far-right views’ clashing with her Jewish faith,” the article noted. Another piece was headlined: “6 TIMES JAVANKA’S DISPLEASURE WITH POTUS LEAKED TO PRESS.” In his feud with Kushner, Bannon may have a powerful ally: Reince Priebus, also recently departed from the White House with a quiver of grudges. Recently, according to several sources, Bannon has told friends he wants Priebus to give his account of the James Comey firing to special prosecutor Robert Mueller.According to a source close to Priebus, the former chief of staff believes that the decision was made during an early May weekend in Bedminster, where Kushner, Ivanka Trump, and Stephen Miller were with the president. Trump returned to the Oval Office on Monday, May 8 and told other aides he intended to fire Comey.

At Breitbart, Bannon has a brigade of similarly happy warriors. “We’re in a loud bar celebrating the return of our captain!” Breitbart’s Washington editor Matt Boyle told me on Friday night. Breitbart’s defense of Trump has so far helped keep the Russia scandal from gaining traction on the right. But that could swiftly change if Trump, under the influence of Kushner and Cohn, deviates too far from the positions he ran on. If that happens, said one high-level Breitbart staffer, “We’re prepared to help Paul Ryan rally votes for impeachment.”

 https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/08/steve-bannon-readies-his-revenge
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3 Responses to “Steve Bannon’s Revenge — And Why the Left Can’t Let Go of Racism”

  1. anisioluiz2008 Says:

    Reblogged this on O LADO ESCURO DA LUA.

  2. Brittius Says:

    Reblogged this on Brittius.

  3. daveyone1 Says:

    Reblogged this on World4Justice : NOW! Lobby Forum..

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