Breitbart News Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon addressed The Citadel Republican Society’s 2017 Patriot Dinner, regaling the crowd at the storied Charleston, South Carolina, military academy with tales of the 2016 Trump campaign, of which he was CEO.
“Ma’am, with all due respect, what happened is that you got your ass kicked,” Bannon told the diners, mocking What Happened, Hillary’s heavily-promoted, 900-page tome on her unexpected defeat after nearly four years of anointment as the next President of the United States, in which she blames nearly everything but her own weakness as a candidate.
The remark came after a spirited recollection of the play-by-play of the roller-coaster election night that saw an ordained victory for Hillary Clinton transmute into the Trump triumph Bannon claimed to know was a “100 percent metaphysical certainty.”
Bannon explained the development of the Trump coalition that, in his words, “won the single greatest come-from-behind victory in American political history.”
“I’m a populist and I’m an economic nationalist and I’m proud of it,” he remembers telling Reince Pribus, then Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman, as the election entered its final phase.
Pribus, with his opposition research and other resources of the RNC, would eventually become a pillar of the establishment wing of the Trump campaign’s march toward victory. According to Bannon, however, the two had only met once before, at a Tea Party event at Washington, D.C.’s “Breitbart Embassy.”
“Reince, I don’t know you very well, except what I read on the pages of Breitbart – where we light you up everyday,” Bannon recalls joking with Pribus before the two buried the hatchet and collaborated to bring on the stunning victory in November.
The coalition, as Bannon conceived of it, came to include – in addition to populist-nationalists like himself – libertarians, limited-government conservatives, and working-class so-called “Reagan Democrats,” and some establishment elements. Some, however, like the Bush dynasty, were jettisoned. While Bannon stressed he had “tremendous respect” for the elder President George Bush for his WWII service and time as a politician, it did not “set well” with the Virginia native that Bush admitted he voted for Hillary Clinton rather than Donald Trump.
As in the Obama victory in 2008, to which he drew a direct comparison, Bannon cited “an empowered grassroots and high technology” in the 2016 victory. “It’s what can win going forward,” he added.
But the strength of coalition as an electoral engine has not, by Bannon’s account, translated to effective populist governance. “When we got to Washington, D.C., we had not learned how to govern as a coalition.The Republican establishment and the donors, most … are NeverTrumpers, I hate to bring up such a brutal fact,” he told the crowd.