Steve Bannon, Trump's Top Guy, Told Me He Was 'A Leninist' Who Wants To ‘Destroy the State’

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast

‘MY GOAL’

Steve Bannon, Trump's Top Guy, Told Me He Was 'A Leninist' Who Wants To ‘Destroy the State’

The Breitbart executive director turned GOP leader boasted at a party about his goal of destroying the conservative establishment.

08.22.16 5:00 AM ET

Why has the Trump campaign taken as its new head a self-described Leninist?

I met Steve Bannon—the executive director of Breitbart.com who’s now become the chief executive of the Trump campaign, replacing the newly resigned Paul Manafort—at a book party held in his Capitol Hill townhouse in early 2014. We were standing next to a picture of his daughter, a West Point graduate, who at the time was a lieutenant in the 101 Airborne Division serving in Iraq. The picture was notable because she was sitting on what was once Saddam Hussein’s gold throne with a machine gun on her lap. “I’m very proud of her,” Bannon said.

Then we had a long talk about his approach to politics. He never called himself a “populist” or an “American nationalist,” as so many think of him today. “I’m a Leninist,” Bannon proudly proclaimed.

Shocked, I asked him what he meant.

“Lenin,” he answered, “wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.” Bannon was employing Lenin’s strategy for Tea Party populist goals. He included in that group the Republican and Democratic Parties, as well as the traditional conservative press.

I emailed Bannon last week recalling our conversation, telling him that I planned to write about it and asking him if he wanted to comment on or correct my account of it. He responded:

“I don’t remember meeting you and don’t remember the conversation. And as u can tell from the past few days I am not doing media.”

The same week as the party, Thomas Sowell had a column in the National Review Online, in which the conservative economist opposed the tactics employed by Ted Cruz in shutting down the government. Cruz’s tactics in opposing Obamacare, Sowell wrote, “undermines the election chances of the only political party that has any chance of undoing the disasters that Barack Obama has already inflicted on the nation. Later that week, Sowell wrote that “Jeopardizing the reelection of current Republican senators is an act of utter irresponsibility, a high risk with zero benefits to anyone except Ted Cruz—and the Democrats.”

During our conversation, I asked Bannon if he had read the pieces, since Sowell was criticizing a tactic which Bannon and the Tea Party had favored.

National Review and The Weekly Standard,” he said, “are both left-wing magazines, and I want to destroy them also.” He added that “no one reads them or cares what they say.” His goal was to bring down the entire establishment including the leaders of the Republican Party in Congress. He went on to tell me that he was the East Coast coordinator of all the Tea Party groups. His plan was to get its candidates nominated on the Republican ticket, and then to back campaigns that they could win. Then, Bannon said, when elected they would be held accountable to fight for the agenda he and the Tea Party stood for.

If they didn’t, “we would force them out of office and oppose them when the next election for their seats came around.”

That, essentially, was the tactic employed when Eric Cantor was ousted by a far right candidate, virtually unknown college economics professor Dave Brat, in his Virginia district’s primary. It was also the path Donald Trump’s supporters took in Wisconsin, when hoping to duplicate their successful tactics in Virginia, they ran a candidate in the Wisconsin Republican primary against Speaker Paul Ryan in his own district. There are a few Republicans that Bannon does respect. One of them is Rep. Louis Gohmert, the fiery congressman from Texas, who was also at the party. Gohmert, who is part of the self-proclaimed anti-establishment wing of the Republican Party, was an ally of Cruz in the government shutdown.

Trump’s decision to take on Bannon indicates that he wants to wage his campaign along the lines laid down by him—that of destroying the Republican leadership and the Party as we know it. Trump’s behavior thus far has been compatible with Bannon’s belief in Leninist tactics. As the Bolshevik leader once said, “The art of any propagandist and agitator consists in his ability to find the best means of influencing any given audience, by presenting a definite truth, in such a way as to make it most convincing, most easy to digest, most graphic, and most strongly impressive.”

Only one question remains. Knowing this, why do leaders like Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and others, who regularly condemn Trump’s statements but yet still endorse him, stick with such a self-defeating approach? They will only end up helping Bannon and company cast them into oblivion and finish their hostile take-over of the GOP.


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