Then-White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon had a previously unreported one-on-one meeting with American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who came away from the talk convinced that Bannon is a “formidable adversary” because he genuinely and passionately “hates crony capitalism” and “sees the world as working people versus elites.”
The Intercept’s Ryan Grim reported on Wednesday that Bannon and Weingarten spoke about issues like “education, infrastructure, immigrants, bigotry and hate, budget cuts,” among other things, during a March meeting at a Washington, DC restaurant.
“He hates crony capitalism,” Weingarten told The Intercept, speaking about the signature issue that has defined Bannon. “I came out of the conversation saying that this was a formidable adversary.”
Weingarten added, “I think he sees the world as working people versus elites. And on some level, he’s thought about educators as working-class folks.”
The Intercept noted that, at the time, Bannon “was working hard to build a coalition to push through an infrastructure deal, as well as drive a wedge through organized labor’s longstanding support for the Democratic Party.” According to the outlet, Weingarten believed that Bannon was looking for some some “common ground that could assist him in realigning the two parties, his long-term goal in politics.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) also feared that President Donald Trump could win over many working-class Democrats, especially those affiliated with unions, by “working with Democrats to rebuild the country’s crumbling infrastructure,” as Joshua Green reported in his best-selling book, Devil’s Bargain.
“I know what you’re doing, and I’m not going to let it happen,” Schumer reportedly told Bannon in the early days of the administration.
According to an Axios report, Schumer “was deeply worried that Bannon’s nationalism might fracture the Democratic coalition” and “feared Trump would begin by pursuing a $1 trillion infrastructure bill that would neatly align with Trump’s ‘builder’ image, produce tangible benefits, win over union voters Democrats rely on, and stand as a testament to what ‘America first nationalism’ could mean.”
Trump, though, decided not to pursue infrastructure reform in the first months of his presidency.
The Intercept reportedly learned of the Bannon-Weingarten meeting “independent of Weingarten or Bannon. It was instigated through a mutual friend and appeared to be part of Bannon’s effort to realign the parties, according to Weingarten,” who told the outlet that she could not say no to a meeting with Bannon.
“If you are the president of the union and you’re fighting fiercely to get budget restorations and to not have a dismantlement of public education or of higher education and the administration asks to – or it’s made clear to you that they want to meet – you meet,” Weingarten reportedly said. “You don’t not meet. You meet.”