Vote Trump, get Bannon

Apart from the ‘ideology’ embraced by Donald Trump and Steve Bannon, in the political world, there are many interesting parallels to the Trump-Bannon relationship

Steve Bannon, the power behind the American throne
Steve Bannon, the power behind the American throne

The US media is currently focusing its attention to Steve Bannon, President Trump’s chief strategist who has been given unprecedented power in the new White House structure. Some in the media are sarcastically referring to him as the ‘President’ implying that he is the real power in the White House.

Bannon – a film producer of political documentaries – is the former head of a far-right news website Breitbart, and his extreme right-wing beliefs are known all over the US. Bannon has been called racist, anti-Semitic and a white nationalist – and the site he ran is known as a home for the so called “alt-Right”. Stories published on Breitbart include items such as: “Bill Kristol: Republican spoiler, renegade Jew,” “Birth control makes women unattractive and crazy,” “Would you rather your child had feminism or cancer?” and “Gay rights have made us dumber, it’s time to get back in the closet.” His right-wing – practically fascist – beliefs are therefore well known.

He was the CEO of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and is now the chief strategist and senior counsellor in Trump’s Presidential Cabinet. He was also appointed to the ‘principals committee’ of the National Security Council – a move that many consider to be very unusual.

He has often been accused of being a racist white supremacist. Last November he defended himself in this way: “I’m not a white nationalist, I’m a nationalist. I’m an economic nationalist. The globalists gutted the American working class and created a middle class in Asia. The issue now is about Americans looking to not get f***ed over. If we deliver, we’ll get 60 per cent of the white vote, and 40 per cent of the black and Hispanic vote and we’ll govern for 50 years. That’s what the Democrats missed.”

In short Bannon is the epitome of Trump’s political ideology.

Bannon is the man behind the recent controversial executive order that banned citizens from seven Muslim countries from visiting the US. He even overruled officials of the Department of Homeland Security who advised him that the ban should not apply to Green Card holders. Trump eventually had to backtrack and earlier this week, a counsel to the President issued guidance to government agencies saying that the executive order does not apply to legal permanent residents, also known as Green Card holders, and that they will no longer need special waivers to re-enter the US. 

According to some reports, Donald Trump just signed the executive order prepared by Bannon without bothering to check the implications in detail – probably the allegation that has led to Bannon being referred to as the ‘actual’ President of the US.

Trump’s foreign policy targeting Islam and China as the largest threats to the US is an idea that Bannon has long spoken about – a stance that pushes Trump to cosy up with Russia’s Vladimir Putin and to favour the breaking up of the EU.

In this scenario, war is inevitable. Indeed, last year Brannon predicted a war with China within the next ten years. He is convinced that western Judeo-Christian civilisation and traditions are threatened by Islamist and Chinese expansionism and that these threats will lead to military clashes between the US and these two ‘powers’. This, to my mind, will be the final nail in the coffin of the West’s hegemony.

Apart from the ‘ideology’ embraced by Trump and Bannon, in the political world, there are many interesting parallels to the Trump-Bannon relationship. For example, Tony Blair had Peter Mandelson as the man behind the throne.

In Malta we have seen Richard Cachia Caruana involving himself in electoral campaigns and then playing the part of the man behind the throne in Eddie Fenech Adami’s administrations. Today, we have a similar relationship between Joseph Muscat and Keith Schembri. 

It is an interesting phenomenon. Nobody voted for Steve Bannon to become President of the USA, as much as nobody ever voted for Richard Cachia Caruana or for Keith Schembri to become ‘de facto’ Prime Ministers of Malta.

Yet the immense influence these men hold (or held) in the power structure of the different administrations is acknowledged by many – including elected politicians who grumble about the system giving so much power to ‘unelected’ persons.

That between leader and ‘counsellor’ is an interesting symbiotic relationship that merits further study by professionals.

Poverty and truancy

Reports on statistics on truancy as officially given by the Minister of Education when answering a Parliamentary question do not make pleasant reading.

It is obvious that fines and eventual court action for non-payment are not serving as an adequate deterrent.

Social problems in lower income families seem to be the main reason behind all this truancy. Among them, one finds financial troubles being faced by families, helping with family businesses at an age when one should be at school, lack of parenting skills, parents in the process of separating and parents who are drug abusers.

These are serious problems indeed and no system of fines for truancy can help families overcome them. Minister Evarist Bartolo is right in taking the approach of avoiding court action as much as possible while reinforcing student support services. More often than not, it is not just the students that need support but it is the whole family structure. Unfortunately, there are not enough social workers to deal with so many social problems and support to families with social problems is many times given too little too late.

Cooperation between social support for families facing problems and student support aimed at avoiding truancy is a sine qua non. In the great majority of cases, one cannot tackle the problem of truancy on its own while ignoring the situations that children face at home.

This is not an easy task, of course. But it is the State’s obligation to ensure that all children get an adequate education and are not bogged down by the social and psychological problems of their parents. 

Unfortunately many NGOs have recently concentrated on low income being the source of social problems, while other factors are being ignored. Increasing a poor family’s income will help but will not change the culture prevalent among these families.

Poverty is not just a question of inadequate income.