Former Fresno State football coach Pat Hill was known for his “anyone, anytime, anyplace” motto while he was building the school’s program last decade, and former White House Chief Strategist Steve K. Bannon seems to be using Hill’s playbook by taking the message of economic nationalism to all communities and people of all political persuasions and backgrounds.
In recent weeks, legacy media reporters have been discovering that Bannon’s message is winning over Democrats and people of color who take the time to meet with Bannon instead of buying into false stereotypes about him.
Bannon is featured in Newsweek’s cover story this week (“Steve Bannon’s plan to Make America Great Again—With or Without Trump”), and Alexander Nazaryan reveals in the piece that even a “Democratic congressional staffer on Capitol Hill who was invited to the Breitbart Embassy because Bannon had learned of his work and was intrigued by the possibility of cooperation” was “shocked” by Bannon’s “interest level and respect” on a variety of issues that impact working-class Americans.
Bannon and the Democrat reportedly talked about populism and war, and the staffer reportedly said that Bannon’s “willingness to engage was striking. It was a surreal experience.”
“It’s obvious he could not last in the Trump administration, in part due to his opposition to wars of choice, hypermilitarism and endless U.S. occupations, and also some domestic policies where he sides more with liberal Democrats than with Republicans, including full employment, wage growth, fair trade, antitrust enforcement and serious spending on infrastructure,” said the Democrat, who reportedly fears being “crucified” if people found out that he met with Bannon at the Breitbart Embassy.
American Prospect editor Robert Kuttner, despite taking jabs at Bannon to ensure that his left-wing allies do not think he is going soft, has expressed respect for Bannon’s ideas on issues like trade.
Even Center for American Progress president Neera Tanden recently conceded during a CNN appearance that Bannon, unlike other corporatist Republicans, puts working-class Americans before Wall Street.
MSNBC anchor Steph Ruhle, who has shown that she is more than curious about Bannon, recently said a Democrat who is a hedge-fund manager met Bannon at a gathering and came away from the encounter talking about how “interesting” and “dynamic” Bannon is. According to Ruhle, this liberal wanted to loathe Bannon before he met him but could not do so after talking with him.
Ruhle, who herself has never met Bannon, said she was scratching her head after her liberal friend’s comments.
Vanity Fair special correspondent Gabriel Sherman recently wrote that though he also wanted to “loathe” Bannon before he ever met him, he found himself “liking him” after their first meeting.
“As much as I wanted to loathe Bannon—the Breitbart attacks were genuinely terrifying—I found myself liking him. He was strange and charismatic and slightly unhinged, and he possessed a sophisticated and encyclopedic knowledge of the modern political-media landscape,” Sherman recently wrote. “He personally knew the players, from the on-air talent and programming executives to the candidates and billionaire donors. And he was a gifted talker. He exaggerated but didn’t quite lie (at least most of the time). And during conversations he fired off laser-accurate descriptions of famous people that would make the best insult comics proud.”
The Newsweek piece also details how Bannon’s economic nationalism message better resonates with people of color than the Congress-speak favored by the likes of House Speaker Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney, whose corporatist brand of Republicanism attracted fewer people of color in his stiff and failed presidential campaign in 2012 than Donald Trump did in his victorious 2016 campaign.
At a recent event for black entrepreneurs, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), according to Nazaryan, droned on and on, “depeploying his Midwestern monotone to lethal effect,” while talking “at length about S corporations and pass-through entities.”
“When it came time for questions, a woman who called herself a ‘red-blooded black American’ pleaded with Johnson to help the African-American community,” Nazayran continues. “He listened respectfully, mentioned some social program he was fond of, then talked about pass-through entities again.”
The last thing the GOP needs is another moment reminiscent of patrician President George H.W. Bush’s disastrous 1992 town hall debate performance against Bill Clinton.
Unlike the corporatist Republican that preceded him, Bannon connected with the black American audience, explaining that “a central thesis” of his economic nationalism agenda is to support “programs that stop the destruction of the black and Hispanic working class.”
According to Nazaryan, Bannon “cited the billions of dollars the United States devoted to military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, asking the audience to imagine if similarly generous amounts had been lavished on Baltimore, St. Louis and Detroit”:
“Have we lost a sense of our priorities?” he asked.
A woman in the audience answered loudly, somberly, as at church when some collective sin has been named: “Yes!”
At the conference, Bannon also connected with the room when he told them that his father still lives in a predominantly black neighborhood in Richmond, Virginia, that does not have businesses like Starbucks. Bannon said it was wrong that these businesses probably made deliberate decisions to not invest in such neighborhoods.
Raynard Jackson, who founded the Black Americans for a Better Future group that organized the event, told Newsweek that “in the the media’s mind, it’s inconceivable that a black person would agree with anything that Steve Bannon had to say.” Newsweek notes that much of Jackson’s “work involves convincing people that Bannon is nothing like the image of him readily available in news reports, late-night talk show monologues and social media memes”:
He says that while friends and business associates are initially skeptical, hearing Bannon talk invariably dispels their concerns. They are particularly intrigued by his argument that uncoupling the United States from its foreign obligations would give African-American entrepreneurs access to capital they have historically been denied.
“I believe,” Jackson told the outlet, “that Steve has the ability to pull together a coalition to blow people’s minds.”
But in order to put that coalition together that can realign American politics for a generation, Bannon must destroy the corporatist GOP establishment.
According to Newsweek, Bannon is taking a page out of Lawrence of Arabia’s playbook, reportedly expressing “an admiration for how Lawrence united disparate Arab factions without forcing them to cede their identity.” Nazaryan writes that Bannon believes “he can play a similar role for the right wing of the Republican Party, bringing together ideological tribes in a furious fight against establishment forces led by [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell and Ryan.”
Destroying the establishment corporatist wing of the GOP will make it easier for Bannon to get his economic nationalism message across to a broader cross section of Americans.
“Economic nationalism does not care what your race is, your color, your ethnicity, your religion, your gender, your sexual preference,” Bannon has said often, arguing that economic nationalism will be the unifying force in this country. According to Nazaryan, it is evident that only one thing matters to Bannon: “your America citizenship.” He points out that Bannon speaks about “American jobs for American workers” and mentions “the black and Hispanic working class.”
In the Newsweek cover story, Nazaryan writes that “the notion of work as a redemptive force is central to Bannon’s thinking, as well as to his own habits.”
Nazaryan also makes an observation that is likely to terrify Bannon’s establishment and globalist enemies in the permanent political class: “As far as I can tell, Bannon doesn’t do much but work. Whether that fact is thrilling or terrifying depends on what you think of the work he does.”