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Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon get top roles with Trump, blurring lines between establishment, alt-right

Where does the administration go from here?


Chris Tognotti


Posted on Nov 13, 2016   Updated on May 25, 2021, 2:34 pm CDT

Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus will be taking on the chief of staff role in the incoming Donald Trump administration, but the biggest news Sunday might be who Trump has picked for his chief strategist and senior counselor. 

That would be former Breitbart CEO Steve Bannon, the anti-establishment saber-rattler who joined the Trump campaign in August, and has now managed to successfully inject the so-called alt-right movement—which includes many white nationalists, neo-Nazis, racists, and misogynists—into the executive branch of the United States.

Priebus was one of many names that had been floated as a likely Trump administration hire, as well as longtime loyalists like Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, Ben Carson, and Corey Lewandowski.

He may be walking away with the chief of staff position, but in the letter announcing the new moves, his role is mentioned below that of Bannon, who’ll hold a less specific title that hints at an outsized amount of influence: “Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor to the President.”

For anyone who’s been wondering the last few days what kind of ideological direction the Trump White House would eventually move in—whether Trump’s vagueness on policy could make him less of a nightmare for liberal causes than popularly believed—this news should ring out like a shot. 

So far, the Trump transition team has been taken over by Vice President-elect Mike Pence, a staunch social conservative with a dismal record on LGBT rights and an anti-abortion hardliner. 

And now, the two men at the top of Trump’s advisory team range from conventional establishment Republicanism and someone straight out of the radical (yet increasingly normalized) fever swamps of the alt-right. In other words, anyone pinning their hopes on some unexpected moderation from the 45th U.S. President may be indulging in some very wishful thinking.

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*First Published: Nov 13, 2016, 7:49 pm CST