Anyone holding out hope that Donald Trump would govern as a uniter — that the racism, sexism, anti-Semitism and nativism of his campaign were just poses to pick up votes — should think again.
In an ominous sign of what the Trump presidency will actually look like, the president-elect on Sunday appointed Stephen Bannon as his chief White House strategist and senior counselor, an enormously influential post.
Many if not most Americans had never heard of Mr. Bannon before this weekend, and for good reason: He has kept a low profile, even after taking over Mr. Trump’s campaign in August. Before that, he worked as the executive chairman of the Breitbart News Network, parent company of the far-right website Breitbart News, which under Mr. Bannon became what the Southern Poverty Law Center has called a “white ethno-nationalist propaganda mill.”
Mr. Bannon himself seems fine with that description, telling Mother Jones last summer that Breitbart was now “the platform for the alt-right,” a loosely organized group of mostly young men who believe in white supremacy; oppose immigration, feminism and multiculturalism; and delight in harassing Jews, Muslims and other vulnerable groups by spewing shocking insults on social media.
If you don’t find the headlines alarming, check the reader comments. Or take a look at who’s rejoicing over Mr. Bannon’s selection. The white nationalist Richard Spencer said on Twitter that Mr. Bannon was in “the best possible position” to influence policy, since he would “not get lost in the weeds” of establishment Washington. The chairman of the American Nazi Party said the pick showed that Mr. Trump might be “for ‘real.’” David Duke, former imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, called the choice “excellent” and said Mr. Bannon was “basically creating the ideological aspects of where we’re going.”
Mr. Bannon is in some ways a perplexing figure: a far-right ideologue who made his millions investing in “Seinfeld”; a former Goldman Sachs banker who has reportedly called himself a “Leninist” with a goal “to destroy the state” and “bring everything crashing down.” He has also called progressive women “a bunch of dykes” and, in a 2014 email to one of his editors, wrote of the Republican leadership, “Let the grassroots turn on the hate because that’s the ONLY thing that will make them do their duty.”
A few conservatives have spoken out against Mr. Bannon. Ben Shapiro, a former Breitbart News editor who resigned in protest last spring, said Mr. Bannon was a “vindictive, nasty figure.” Glenn Beck called him a “nightmare” and a “terrifying man.”
But most Republican officeholders have so far remained silent. Some have dismissed fears about Mr. Bannon. Other Republicans have praised him, like Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, whom Mr. Trump announced as his chief of staff on Sunday, and who said Mr. Bannon could not be such a bad guy because he served in the Navy and went to Harvard Business School. Some saw the pick of Mr. Priebus as evidence that Mr. Trump would not be leaning so much on Mr. Bannon. But don’t be fooled by Mr. Priebus’s elevated title; in the press release announcing both hires, Mr. Bannon’s name appeared above Mr. Priebus’s. In a little more than two months Mr. Bannon, and his toxic ideology, will be sitting down the hall from the Oval Office.