Liberals are licking their lips about an imagined civil war in President Trump’s White House, one pitting Steve Bannon against Jared Kushner and a New York crowd. That’s wishful thinking for the most part. Bannon is still a hugely important figure in the administration, and he’s not going anywhere. And that’s because everyone recognizes that they need him.
Bannon’s been said to be a wartime consigliere, they guy you put in charge when you go to the mattresses. The person you need in the middle of a campaign but whom you can dispense with when the war is over. That’s a good point, except for one thing. The war isn’t over. The administration is still taking ten incoming rounds a day, from a media that’s abandoned any pretense of fairness and objectivity. Against that, Trump needs a member of the team who can hit back, who can take the fight to the enemy.
Trump’s election sent shock waves through the political, military, and business establishment worldwide, and Bannon is someone who knows how to handle the turbulent consequences. Moderate voices may signal greater calm and peace, but there is no peace and there will be no peace as long at Trump is president. We are in war that must be fought by those who get what the Trump coalition is all about and know what has to be done over the next four years.
The wartime consigliere is one part of it. The other part is that Bannon understands the issues that took the Republicans to victory last November. Here’s a hint. It wasn’t Ayn Rand, Paul Ryan or Bill Kristol. Bannon understands, as well as anyone, why Americans voted the Trump/Pence ticket when the “experts,” including the entranced GOP leadership, predicted otherwise. He understands that the base of Trump’s support comes from the residual energy of the Tea Party and the reliable base of Christian voters, both Evangelical and Catholic. The Tea Party certainly foreshadowed the economic and security issues that drove the Trump surge, but the largest group among those activists consisted of conservative Christian voters.
Bannon’s presence in the White House insures that these voices will remain strong in spite of traditional GOP pressure to muffle it. I’ve spoken to several well-placed GOP leaders who had no idea why Trump appealed to Republican voters. Evidently part of being “well-placed” is benefiting from the cronyism that Bannon exposes. Those same leaders have told me that they did not know anyone who voted for Trump.
Peggy Noonan, who understands the Republican establishment as well as anyone, recently defended Bannon against the media snipes. On April 13, she published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, “Does Steve Bannon Have Something to Offer?” Having actually read Bannon’s 2014 speech at the Vatican, Noonan pointed out its strong religious and moral content. Here is an excerpt:
“The Tea Party in the United States’ biggest fight is with the Republican establishment, which is really a collection of crony capitalists that feel that they have a different set of rules of how they’re going to comport themselves and how they’re going to run things.”
Trump understood the Tea Party and Christian base of his support early on in campaign, and the hiring of Bannon insured he would not forget it. Those who claim Bannon represents only nationalism and populism miss the mark badly. Bannon is a sophisticated thinker, experienced journalist and successful entrepreneur, whose mind has been shaped by his Catholic faith, and whose political instincts have been formed outside the Beltway.
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[S]omething that should be at the heart of every Christian that is a capitalist — “What is the purpose of whatever I’m doing with this wealth? What is the purpose of what I’m doing with the ability that God has given us, that divine providence has given us to actually be a creator of jobs and a creator of wealth?”
This is a man who understands what the Church teaches about social responsibilities. It also demonstrates that Bannon, unlike many free market conservatives, possesses a moral framework through which he views economic policy issues. That’s an insight he also shares with Jared Kushner, and it’s one that the administration can’t do without.