The Administration

Steve Bannon — the indispensable player in the Trump White House

Bannon trump
Bannon trump

When it comes to understanding Donald Trump’s incoming administration, we first need to understand that the president-elect is neither a Republican nor is he a Conservative.

{mosads}He ran with the nomination of the Republican Party and tepid support from almost everyone who is part of the Republican establishment. He won as a populist and, in doing so, has likely realigned the national party structure sending Democrats to strategize on how to reconnect with core constituencies they had controlled since 1932.


President-elect Trump was guided through a competitive primary season by Corey Lewandowski, grandson of a union printer from Massachusetts, whose slogan was “Let Trump Be Trump.”

Running an unorthodox effort that leveraged Mr. Trump’s celebrity, the campaign garnered $1.9 billion in earned media as it dispatched 16 primary opponents, most of who had outstanding political resumes and combined spent hundreds of millions of dollars running traditional campaigns.

Paul Manafort was brought into the campaign to make Donald Trump a mainstream Republican candidate. He failed. Trump was leading a movement, not a party, and he needed someone who was able to weave the seemingly divergent pieces of his movement together into a consistent narrative and overlay it onto a political strategy to achieve victory.

Enter Steve Bannon.

Steve Bannon is a strategist. Most people do not understand what a strategist does. He is not the guy who makes sure that the trains run on time. He does not manage people. He does not attend rallies and events. He does not create television commercials. You won’t see him giving interviews. He would prefer if nobody knew his name.

The strategist is the person who connects the dots and sees the whole playing field.

The path forward is clear to the strategist. His most significant initial challenge is to gain the confidence of the candidate and allay the fears of key staff that he is not looking to do their jobs or steal the spotlight.

The last thing any strategist wants is to be the center of attention. He works quietly behind the scenes. His value is most clearly demonstrated at private meetings with the candidate and core team meetings where he will inject outside-the-box thinking to challenge base assumptions and force the team to reassess and rethink tactics and world view.

A strategist monitors events and translates them into course corrections. He sees opportunities that his more tactical counterparts miss. He understands what threats need to be addressed and which can be ignored. He is the keeper of the vision and the secret sauce who fully understands the nexus of issues with people and how to position the candidate effectively within the matrix of ideas, philosophy, party and competing interests.

Donald Trump wants to “Make America Great Again.” To accomplish this goal he has promised to “drain the swamp” of special interests who control Washington.

He wants to “Put America First,” which means he will focus on national interests above globalism. He wants to transform the way government delivers services. He wants to cut taxes and grow the economy. He wants to end the cycle of poverty and violence in our inner-cities. He wants to undo Obamacare and repeal excessive regulation of business.  He plans on rebuilding America’s infrastructure.

Some of what he has proposed will streamline government and make it more efficient. This will appeal to Republicans.

Some of what he plans on doing will require more spending and be focused on solving problems that have lingered for too long. This will please the Democrats.

His energy and environmental policies will not have the support of the Democrats. Nor will his immigration policies and tax simplification. In short, he will earn the ire and support of both parties.

Donald Trump is a pragmatic populist. Steve Bannon is the keeper of the flame who will help the president-elect successfully navigate dangerous political waters to reach his goals. Of everyone who constitutes the president-elect’s inner circle of advisors, Steve Bannon is the indispensable player who Donald Trump needs to succeed in “Making America Great Again.”

The elevation of Mr. Bannon to a key position in his administration signals how serious Mr. Trump is about achieving his goals. A lesser man would sell out and ride the Republican wave. Mr. Trump is doing this for the people and his appointment of Mr. Bannon proves it.

Powell is a former political strategist who now works to “connects the dots” for associations and businesses as a consultant and advisor to boards of directors and senior executives on issue management, strategy and disruptive trends. He is the president of Pennsylvania-based Massey Powell and can be reached at

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.

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