Steve Bannon, currently exiled from the White House, may not be a Donald Trump favorite these days, but he is nonetheless doing his best to ingratiate himself with the president. Far from exiled when it comes to the mainstream press, Bannon told the BBC’s “Newsnight” that Martin Luther King Jr. “would be proud of” Trump for creating jobs for Black and Latino people.
“If you look at the policies of Donald Trump, anybody — Martin Luther King — would be proud of him, what he’s done for the Black and Hispanic community for jobs,” he said. Don’t be surprised if, after an extended apology tour, Bannon is welcomed back into the fold.
Further still, if anyone is going to help bring a version of Benito Mussolini’s fascism back to Italy, it may very well be Bannon. The disheveled-looking butt of late-night jokes who was forced out of the White House, unceremoniously dropped by his biggest financial backers and dumped by Breitbart News, has taken on a new role: pied piper for international white nationalism. He’s here, he’s there; on any given day, he might be anywhere.
According to Vanity Fair’s Isobel Thompson, Bannon has recently been hanging around the disaster that is the Italian government, propping up its newfound right-wing nationalism. With its government in disarray and talk about pulling out of the European Union on some political leader’s agendas, “Bannon’s valedictory yawp is reverberating across Europe.” Further, Bannon told The Daily Beast that if his brand of white nationalism works in Italy, “it is going to work everywhere,” and “is going to break the backs of the globalists.”
Thompson reported that, a few months back, Bannon “met with [far-right] League leader Matteo Salvini, whose rise to power has been motored by racism, and urged him to partner with [Italy’s Five Star Movement far-right populist political party], whose catchphrase ‘vaffanculo’ means ‘fuck off’.” Bannon told Salvini, “You are the first guys who can really break the left and right paradigm. You can show that populism is the new organizing principle.”
Italy’s March election “failed to deliver a governing majority to a single party or a coalition, but voters awarded the largest amount of seats to the Five Star Movement (M5S), rejecting traditional centrist parties,” Newsweek’s Sofia Lotto Persio recently reported. “The M5S was created by the comedian Beppe Grillo in 2009 as an anti-establishment platform promoting direct democracy and transparency, but it eventually encompassed conspiracy theories about vaccines, euroskepticism and anti-immigration sentiments.”
In a March interview with Jason Horowitz of The New York Times, Bannon laid out his humble goals: “All I’m trying to be,” he said, “is the infrastructure, globally, for the global populist movement.”
In March, Bannon also met up with France’s far-right National Front in the northern city of Lille, where its leader Marine Le Pen introduced him at the party’s annual conference. During that visit to Europe, Bannon also met with leaders of Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany party.
“But it is Italy,” Horowitz reported, that Bannon “has turned into his de facto headquarters” after “populist forces smashed the country’s establishment by combining to win more than half the vote,” earlier this year.
Meanwhile, back in the US, Bannon is once again flacking for President Trump, insisting that “Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should be ordered to turn over all documents associated with a controversial FBI source who [the president] has accused of spying on his campaign,” CNN’s Sophie Tatum recently reported.
Keeping it real, Bannon “acknowledged that his renegade campaign to replace the Republican establishment with fresh faces committed to his brand of outsider populism failed,” according to the National Review’s Jack Crowe. Six months after threatening to destroy Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s grip on the GOP, Bannon told The New York Times that, “People are starting to realize that the anti-establishment thing is kind of a luxury we can’t afford right now.”
But if there is anything that defines Bannon’s homeland failures, it was his backing of the Alabama senatorial campaign of the scandal-plagued Judge Roy Moore. Bannon’s candidates, including Moore and West Virginia’s Don Blankenship, a coal company executive recently released from prison, are notable for the scandals that dogged them, as well as for running feeble and failed campaigns.
Of all the challengers to the GOP establishment backed by Bannon, only two — Chris McDaniel, running for Senate in Mississippi, and Kelli Ward in Arizona, who is competing in a three-way primary — are still in the running, The New York Times’s Jeremy W. Peters reported.
And, lest we forget, Bannon was instrumental in helping suppress the Black vote in certain swing states in 2016. Whistleblower Christopher Wylie — a former employee of Cambridge Analytica, which Bannon cofounded in 2013 in an effort to push the US electorate to the right through data-driven messaging tactics — told a Senate panel that “voter disengagement tactics” targeting Black voters were employed by the firm.
CNN reported that when Wylie was “asked by Sen. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, if one of Bannon’s ‘goals was to suppress voting or discourage certain individuals in the US from voting,’ Wylie replied, ‘That was my understanding, yes.'”
Bannon realized that while most Black voters might be unwilling to cast a ballot for Trump, convincing them to stay home could be just as effective. And that’s where using Bruce Carter came into play.
According to Bloomberg, Bannon helped connect Carter (the former Black Men for Bernie founder and activist who launched the Trump for Urban Communities nonprofit in the summer of 2016) with Dallas financier Darren Blanton. Together, Blanton and Carter worked to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Trump nonprofit — money that was funneled to the voter suppression campaign. Among other efforts, Carter launched a “Don’t Vote Early” campaign designed to keep Black voters from taking advantage of early voting, which often piles up votes for Democrats.
Lastly, in response to Bannon’s comments that Martin Luther King Jr. would be proud of Trump, Rev. Bernice King, an activist and the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., claimed on Twitter that Bannon was co-opting her father’s legacy: “#SteveBannon has dangerously and erroneously co-opted my father’s name, work and words,” she tweeted. “Bannon’s assertion that my father, #MLK, would be proud of Donald Trump wholly ignores Daddy’s commitment to people of all races, nationalities, etc. being treated with dignity and respect.”
Late night television hosts and GOP dirty tricksters may continue to make fun of Bannon’s sartorial choices, and while he’s not likely to appear on the cover of GQ anytime soon, his critics shouldn’t underestimate the role that Bannon is playing in drawing connections between racist right-wing movements internationally.
One thing Donald Trump appears to care about more than just about anything else is the obeisance of his staff. With more well-placed compliments about the job Trump is doing, Bannon just might re-emerge as a key Trump adviser in time for the 2020 presidential campaign.