“Darkness is good. Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power,” Steve Bannon told The Hollywood Reporter last November. “It only helps us when ‘they’ get it wrong. When ‘they’re’ blind to who we are and what we’re doing.”
President Donald Trump is notorious for his brash, incoherent commentary. But while his bizarre behavior and irrational Twitter rants are fit for laughs, the brains maneuvering the puppet is where the real concern lies.
In the above quote, the White House Chief Strategist was referring to the media as “blind” and out of touch with reality, yet the staunch and self-declared nationalist is clearly living in a bubble as he is captivated by sinister conspiracy theories and remains fixated on religious war. His apocalyptic worldview and obsession with a perpetual state of conflict demonstrates how dark and unstable his own mental state is.
The provocateur has claimed countless times that “we’re at war,” that the “Judeo-Christian West is collapsing…imploding.” His rigid belief stems from a grim historical theory called The Fourth Turning fleshed out by generational theorists William Strauss and Neil Howe. In it, the world goes through stages and the Fourth Turning ushers in a new political order.
“This is the fourth great crisis in American history,” Bannon said at the Liberty Restoration Foundation in 2011. “We had the Revolution. We had the Civil War. We had the Great Depression and World War II. This is the great Fourth Turning in American history, and we’re going to be one thing on the other side.”
He consistently argues that our society has already reached this breaking point and that we are embroiled in a “war against jihadist Islamic fascism” and war with “expansionist China” is looming.
“They are motivated. They’re arrogant. They’re on the march," Bannon said of Islam and China during a Breitbart News radio appearance in 2016. "And they think the Judeo-Christian West is on the retreat."
Bannon also believes that in order to counter this imminent threat, we must take our country back from supposed radicals (yet Bannon and his cohorts seem to be the only ones spouting extremist rhetoric).
But what is even more absurd and irrational about his ludicrous perspective is how outright dismissive he is of history.
He reminisces fondly on the pre-World War I era, remembering it as a time when capitalism was “in its highest flower” and “the world was at peace.”
As The Seattle Times aptly points out perhaps he’s so disillusioned over a self-perceived brewing war with Islam, that Bannon has “failed to notice that the prewar system of balance of power between strong nationalist states was a horrific failure and led to the two most devastating world wars in history? And that multilateral institutions such as the European Union and NATO prevented any further European wars.”
Bannon is evidently removed from reality, but Trump is living in his own self-destructive alternate universe as well.
As the president allows Bannon’s brash and divisive strategy to take root, he fails to recognize that this polarization is only hindering his legacy and uniting Democrats against him while straining his own party allegiances.
Bannon’s style has not only “produced the biggest mistakes of the first five weeks…[it] can’t [even] produce the results they promise and may undermine the rest of Mr. Trump’s agenda.”
As The Wall Street Journal notes, aggressive immigration crackdowns that will only ship jobs overseas and adversarial media relations are bound to deter Republicans and weaken the party.
However, a unified GOP establishment — something Bannon is adamantly against — will spur the kind of political change Trump needs to succeed in office and earn respect from his colleagues.
Furthermore, Trump may believe the former Breitbart editor’s tactics are helping him connect to his supporters and cement his presidency, but even Bannon has admitted Trump is just a pawn in his little fantasy game.
In an interview with Vanity Fair last summer, Bannon disclosed that Trump is merely a “blunt instrument for us…I don’t know whether he really gets it or not.”
To Bannon, Trump is a vehicle to propel the nationalist movement, but not the intellect constructing it. He is using Trump and the American people to satisfy a sick vengeance that only exists in his mind. Bannon thinks he is saving the West and giving American society a win, but in reality, we are the ones walking away losers.
When Hillary Clinton was running for president, conservative pundits often questioned her emotional stability to take on such a powerful position of authority. Yet — putting her qualifications and eloquence aside — even the former secretary of state’s hawkish tendencies pale in comparison to the erratic, spontaneous combustion that is Trump and Bannon in conjunction.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Saul Loeb