On Sunday, President-elect Donald J. Trump appointed Stephen Bannon as chief strategist and senior counselor for the incoming Trump administration. Bannon is the former executive chairman of Breitbart News LLC (named after Andrew Breitbart, who I’ve been very critical of), which he left in August to become chairman of the Trump campaign.
For those unaware, Breitbart operates a website that traffics in white nationalism, racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, and conspiracy theories. It is home to the so-called “alt-right,” a predominantly secular movement of people who hold to far right ideologies.
In other words, Bannon has spent the past four years as the proud overseer of a cesspool of hate and misinformation that publishes dehumanizing rhetoric and distortions of fact, and fosters scapegoating, demonization, paranoia, and extremism. He and his website have caused incredible damage to the lives of vulnerable people and groups — especially women and minorities — and, more broadly, political discourse.
Now, Bannon is the chief strategist in the White House, meaning he will be able to shape the direction of the U.S. government and have exponentially more power to cause further harm.
His appointment to the White House has been warmly welcomed by extremists such as the Daily Stormer, the American Nazi Party, and David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard.
Think about that: Nazis and the KKK have endorsed the new chief strategist in the White House. They’re also rather fond of the president-elect. And they feel emboldened right now.
The appointment of Bannon also makes it clear that the Trump administration will, like the Trump campaign, seek to promote misinformation or outright lies in order to shape public sentiment and policy about the president and his efforts, with the effect of further dividing Americans.
Our ability to reason through nonsense, and recognize and respect a common humanity in other Americans amongst our disagreements, is as important now as it has ever been.
Fortunately, there are people urging the president-elect to seriously reconsider his appointment. This opposition includes both hundreds of Congressional Democrats and conservative figures such as Ben Shapiro and Ian Tuttle — though not (yet) a single Congressional Republican.
Shame on them. This shouldn’t be an issue of right or left, Republican or Democrat. This should be an issue of basic decency. But then, sadly, issues of basic decency often split across partisan lines.
If you want to convey your views on Bannon’s appointment to people in position’s of power, here’s one way to do it: pick up the phone and call your U.S. representatives and senators — particularly their district/state offices, and with one of these scripts — and tell them that you object to Bannon being named chief strategist in the White House, and want them to speak out immediately in whatever capacity they can.
To be sure, Congress cannot stop a non-Cabinet presidential advisor, and frankly, I am doubtful Bannon will be withdrawn. But, they can pressure the administration via public opinion. And this matters — and will matter over the next four years.
Indeed, Trump, Bannon, and other potential appointees are but different peaks of a mountain range.* In order to address the entire mountain range, Americans must regularly engage with their elected officials to make officials aware of their values and demands, and pressure officials to express constituent concerns on Capitol Hill. Otherwise, Trump will continue to fill his cabinet and administration without any opposition whatsoever. And Americans may very well see appointments fly through without opposition, and consider the possibility that maybe this is all normal. It’s not, and we cannot let it be even considered as such.
For now, though, a couple brief phone calls is the least you can do to oppose White House officials who promote hateful ideas. Your elected officials’ staffers should get used to the sound of your voice. Now is a good time to start.