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America is on the verge of normalizing hate if Steve Bannon is permitted to set foot in the White House. Don't be mistaken: The race-baiting Breitbart editor will have Trump's ear regardless of where he punches a clock, but legitimizing his views by giving him a top job in the president-elect's inner circle represents nothing short of a threat to the safety of our fellow citizens.
This is certainly not the first time that white supremacy has threatened to inhabit the White House. Many times, it has made it through the doors. President Andrew Johnson stepped into Lincoln’s seat believing that African-Americans were as guilty of undermining poor whites as slave owners. His hate set the stage for generations of Jim Crow. Theodore Roosevelt took up eugenics, justifying the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Filipinos as progress. Woodrow Wilson’s satisfied embrace of bigotry is inseparable from the rise of the Ku Klux Klan.
When legitimized by the power and authority of the presidency, the hatred of an individual can bring suffering and ruin to the citizens of this country.
The list goes on. African-Americans know this all-too-well. Jews know it, too. So do Muslims and women and all minorities. And the threat Bannon represents now resonates for that reason.
At the Democratic National Convention in July, Michelle Obama traced the historic arc of a White House built by slaves that would be home to her African-American daughters. One need only consider the first lady's speech to know that deep down, we know exactly what it means to let someone with views like Bannon's back into that house. When legitimized by the power and authority of the presidency, the hatred of an individual can bring suffering and ruin to the citizens of this country. These are the chimes of America’s dark past that Bannon’s ascent now rings.
There are those who will seek to downplay his influence and role in the most alarming aspects of Trump’s victory. One such is Newt Gingrich, who argued on Monday that Bannon cannot be an anti-Semite because he worked with Jews on Wall Street and in Hollywood. Bannon might even issue some kind of apology to allay our concerns. But he and his apologists should not be given an inch. His audience is large, and they represent a threat to the values of a democracy.
Proving that irony is truly dead, Bannon's helmed a website that was founded and elevated to greatness by the Jewish commentator Andrew Breitbart. Throughout the campaign, Breitbart News Network was a conduit for the Trump campaign’s connection to hate groups who now feel ascendant as they target Muslims, Jews, African-Americans, Hispanics, immigrants and members of the LGBTQ community.
Bannon is responsible for forging that connection. Given Trump’s own successful use of Twitter to similar effect, it is likely that the two enjoy a shared love and understanding for the importance of controlling a message. Their message was successful because it was repeated, again and again and again. No backtracking will minimize what it means.
Everything should be done to fracture this alliance. Anything shy of that will not be enough.
Instead, Bannon’s entry into the White House should represent the first break-point for a presidency desperately seeking legitimacy after winning the electoral college but losing the popular vote. Trump can begin to seal these cracks by leaving his friend at the White House gates, and all of us should encourage him to do so.
Trump supporters who do not believe they voted for a rhetoric of hate should demand someone different, rather than telling the objects of that hatred that it isn’t really there. Advertisers should be pressured to pull their support from his megaphone of a website. Jewish leaders should denounce him forcefully. Senators should refuse confirmations for key appointments unless he goes. Everything should be done to fracture this alliance. Anything shy of that will not be enough.
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