Giving thanks for Bannon’s exit

Posted on November 22, 2017

As you count your blessings at the Thanksgiving table, be thankful that Steve Bannon no longer works at the White House.

He’s the guy who said:

I’m a Leninist. Lenin 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.”

“Darkness is good. Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power.”

“Let the grassroots turn on the hate.”

“The media’s the opposition party.”

“I don’t need the affirmation of the mainstream media. I don’t care what they say. They can call me an anti-Semite. They can call me racist. They can call me nativist. You can call me anything you want. Okay?”

Thank goodness that creepy fascist serial-liar is out of government. But at the same time, can we stop talking about him? While Bannon used to make for truly scary news, he is no longer a significant public figure. His reputation for political impact is, in retrospect, undeserved. His current and future ability to affect politics is minimal.

For example, there is not much evidence that he made a difference in the presidential race. Bannon did not join the Trump campaign until August 2016, a month after the Republican National Convention. Under Bannon’s watch, the campaign did little different and, as the polls showed, Trump lost all three debates. Clinton led pretty consistently until—eleven days before the election—FBI Director James Comey dropped his email bomb. You might argue that Comey or the Russians defeated Clinton, or that she defeated herself by failing to advance a progressive economic argument. But, in hindsight, it wasn’t Bannon.

And fortunately, while he was in the White House, his advice either resulted in blunders (e.g., putting Bannon on the National Security Council, the Muslim bans, defending fascists in Charlottesville) or went largely ignored (e.g. Bannon argued against firing Comey). When he left, his acolytes were forced out as well. His West Wing influence was a mirage.

Today, Bannon leads Breitbart, a neo-fascist website. According to the traffic reports, 97 percent of Breitbart readers are extremists already. There have always been right-wing kooks, fascists and White supremacists in American politics. They were going to vote for candidates who reflected their extremist views anyway. There is no actual evidence that Bannon or Breitbart are persuading anyone of anything. Compared to Fox News, the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson, the DeVos family, the Walton family, as well as dozens of right-wing donors and superPACs, Bannon is nothing.

If he has any impact, it is entirely negative and wholly a threat to Republicans rather than Democrats. As Bannon himself explained:

I told [Trump] I was going to go after the [Republican] establishment, go after the establishment first and the Democrats later.”

But again, the extreme right-wing voters are going to support anti-establishment candidates (e.g., Roy Moore) in Republican primaries with or without Bannon’s encouragement. And whether those extremists win or lose their primaries, the main effect will be to weaken Republicans’ chances against Democratic challengers.

With 2018 legislative sessions almost upon us, let’s forget about the boogeyman and put all our energy into fighting for strong progressive policies. It’s our turn to be the agents of change.