When Steve Bannon, former CEO of Breitbart News, joined the Trump presidential campaign, we very quickly learned of the existence of the Alt-Right; what is being represented as an ethno-national political movement that is being offered as an alternative (that’s where the “Alt” comes from) to traditional conservatism. To get beyond that limited statement requires some reading, and you can expect that what you peruse will come with a slant or bias.
The Mainstream Media
Troll through the usual mainstream outlets and it’s easy enough to find articles describing Bannon as an out-and-out racist, White supremacist and a champion of the Alt-Right. Is the man a “racist”? That depends on who you want to believe, a matter that we’ll come to shortly. Is he an Alt-Right “champion”? At the very least, when he was CEO at Breitbart, he announced that he wanted that publication to be a “platform” for the movement. That doesn’t necessarily mean that he is an advocate of what its members believe and say. But, he has surely handed them a “megaphone” and that’s a gift in no small measure.
The National Review
In this well known conservative publication there is an article that is both helpful and nuanced. Published just two days ago (11-14-16), it is titled “Steve Bannon is not a Nazi. But let’s be honest about what he represents” (1). As this title suggests, you are offered a toned-down version of the mainstream media’s characterization of the man, even as he is cast as sympathetic to the Alt-Right point of view. His appointment as Primaddonald’s main strategist is not presented as a good thing. As you can tell from the foregoing, the Review’s screed is more about Bannon than the Alt-Right, but it is still worth reading.
National Public Radio (NPR)
By way of comparison, the left-leaning NPR goes off in the opposition direction with more to say about the Alt-Right than Bannon. In “What you need to know about the Alt-Right movement” (2) you get a sober presentation that is free of a lot of hyperbole’. The defining features of the movement are set forth and they surely set it apart from what we have come to identify as conservatism. Its leaders are named, Bannon not being one of them.
Your blogger has made an effort, however imperfect, to avoid an in-depth characterization of the contents of the two articles cited above. That is left to you and your own independent reading. What follows here though, is a look at how all this fits into the current political scene and the imminence of the Trump presidency.
Congressional Democrats have seized on the mainstream media’s views of Bannon and the Al-Right movement and are urging Primadonald to rescind his appointment as referenced above. In sharp contrast, Congressional Republicans have been notably silent, apparently not wanting to undercut the newly-elected president and alienate members of their constituencies who may hold common cause with the Alt Right. The latter reason is also why it is unlikely that Trump will send Bannon packing.
If Bannon is retained, expect the Democrats to use that to batter Primadonald and the GOP, especially around the time of the next midterm election. If the view of Bannon as a racist/White supremacist takes hold, it could be a powerful “get-out-the-vote” message to use among minorities against incumbent Republicans and those seeking office.