It takes no genius, stable or otherwise, to distinguish the marauding, crusading ideologue Bannon from the marauding, ignorant, Pinocchio Trump. However repellent, Bannon is
- Reputedly intelligent, reads entire books (some with big words) and fancies himself an intellectual, despite stridently hard-right addictions;
- Far more the self-made man, no Trumpian silver spoon, successful in banking, documentaries and nationalizing the fringe Brietbart;
- Fearlessly, far more consistently speaks his twisted truths to power. Bannon shames Trump, the phony know-nothing who obliterates coherence, mocks truth, needs crowd adoration;
- SB aligns his alt-right schtick with actual (if obnoxious) policy/program ideas; he understands/uses/abuses larger political/cultural trends, even believes in and studies history;
- Deeply committed to his virulent, white tribal nonsense, way before Trump pushing “America First” and/or MAGA by putting down Islam, immigrants, foreigners and minorities;
- SB thinks more, especially before spouting off. Appears less mentally and emotionally defective (no slurred speech, no word salad idiocy). Unlike the image-obsessed Trump, SB looks disheveled, pandering no doubt as man of the people, thus would never brag about being “really rich” to justify power and position;
- Curiously, Bannon foolishly squandered hard-won national status while Trump and Trumpism stagger on (though exiled, SB stands by his ex-boss). SB opposed dumping Comey, smart enough to escape, unlike gullible Trump and family, Russian election complicity.
No doubt other differences matter; add yours to the list, the more the merrier.
Now the thundering similarities.
- Both wear divisive, racist white nationalism on their sleeves, though who knows what Trump believes in (except sex, fame and money) when trolling the media to trigger shock and awe;
- Both lean on rhetoric that defies entrenched elites (who in turn scorn them as nihilistic usurpers). Feeding their dance of disruption, Bannon pushed Trump’s take-no-prisoners assault on Rethugs, Dems, media, and Mueller;
- Both cultivate shrill minority politics, manipulating an aggrieved base as potent battering ram; both willingly destroy institutions and foes in their way, rarely worrying about outcomes; both pitch delusional return to a fictive golden age;
- Neither has “emotional intelligence” (awareness of other people’s insides), nor honors context, good timing, or diplomacy; both are blind to backlashes when sound bites boomerang; both qualify as malignant, self-righteous narcissists;
- Both live by fomenting disruptive controversy, however offensive, obscuring their contradictions and/or corruption; both use ruthless, malicious or intimidating means to gain their fantasied “noble” ends (crude militarism to defeat Islamic enemies, save Anglo-Saxon civilization by elevating otherwise dis-empowered, white Christian males);
- Both absurdly present themselves as political geniuses, though arrogantly declaring yourself a “stable genius” isn’t Bannon’s style. Both run off at the mouth, at times their own worse enemies: Trump from pathology, Bannon from undeterred over-confidence;
- Neither ever learned how to apologize, even when the quickest, only way out of a whopping fiasco; neither buffoon acknowledges blunders, blaming the dishonest, bad faith of critics for all negative outcomes;
- Both flatter themselves as the smartest, most dominant, potent male in any room, yet also think themselves capable of charming a banana from a monkey; neither wannabe “great men” can hear their own farcical insularity.
- Both define rabid male chauvinism, with regressive contempt for feminine energy, especially smarter, stronger women who defy their hollow delusions old-time patriarchy will rise again.
Bannon stays his ideological, even revolutionary course because Trumpian incoherence would offend obsessed, alt-right followers. Trump and Bannon are both guilty of over-defending starkly unpopular positions (anti-DACA, pro-Muslim ban, pro nutcase/accused sex predator Roy Moore) yet “Sloppy Steve” does oppose the super-rich ruling class (urging for example higher taxes on 1% billionaires).
Who knows why Bannon, the alleged wizard, committed political suicide with needless slams against Trump kin in “Fire and Fury”? That costly disaster squandered his top donors and Breitbart leadership. What could he possibly gain by abusing Ivanka, the Donald’s favorite, as “dumb as a brick”? Even if true. Or Kushner as “greasy”? Certainly true. Where was Bannon’s supposed big picture brilliance, now eviscerated by his own coarse mud-slinging?
Only time tells whether Bannon is electoral toast. Will he be remembered as crypto-fascist, anti-Semitic crusader who rode the Trump comet so he could fuel over-simplifications, like distorting terrorism as epic culture war between Islam and Christianity? Or does last week’s reversal expose a Bannon as desperate suck-up, unconvincingly talking back the “treasonous,” “unpatriotic” slams against Trump, Jr.? The jury is out on this scheming survivor’s future.
The Bannon Shadow Endures
Yet, let’s not dismiss what Bannon achieved, as extremist spigot to Trump’s darkest, fear-mongering blather (hence, the grim State of the Union). We know Bannon schooled Trump to attack the media, pander to their howling base while taunting GOP swampiness; he persuaded Trump to attack foreign countries, even allies, reject TPP and NAFTA plus up the anti-immigrant blasts visible today.
In the end, historians should depict this unholy pair as their own worst enemies, alone and together the era’s most self-destructive duo. The ill-dressed, unshaven one is now untethered, back on his heels and back to square one. By slandering Bannon (now the ungrateful betrayer) as having “lost his mind,” the mindless, irony-free president pulverized the upstart renegade. Trump endures, the better actor faking it as predatory messiah to deluded millions.
Greater the rise . . . greater the fall?
Trump, as Conor Lynch of Salon aptly captures him, is “still Trump — a pompous, primitive and bigoted blowhard with the temperament of a pubescent boy and the intellectual capacity of an illiterate caveman.” Because he’s still on top, however precariously, and yet incapable of learning from disaster, Trump’s slower, steadier descent is more predictable. More infamy will inflate his thinning balloon until forces within and without blow apart his vaunted leverage.
It’s too early to blame offended Bannonites (furious now at Trump’s GOP) when the Dems retake the House or Senate. After all, Trump’s self-inflicted immolation continues unabated — and a fallen, shit-holed Humpty-Dumpty can truly decimate Republican hegemony from the inside. Whatever, Bannon and Trump deserve each other, both nasty, malicious forces of destabilizing dissolution that threaten law, order, civility, trust and the good will clinging to the American experiment. I only trust it doesn’t take until 2020 to reverse the Trumpian contagion for that remains, channeling that old definition for pornography, without socially or economically-redeeming values.