Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump and the Storming of the Presidency
Hardcover, 272 pages, $27.00
I’d been meaning to read this book for a while. I’d put it off because, to be honest, the loss suffered by our country on Election Day 2016 was simply too raw for me to go deep into a book about the Trump campaign. However, after the resounding rejection of Trumpism we witnessed on Election Day 2017 gave me real hope for the future, I decided to dive in.
Devil’s Bargain grew out of Joshua Green’s October 2015 profile of Steve Bannon, the title of which presciently dubbed him “The Most Dangerous Political Operative in America” a full year before he took over the Trump presidential campaign. Talk about being ahead of the curve. The book expertly weaves together two distinct, but related stories. One is a brief, albeit comprehensive enough biography of Bannon himself.
The book details his early life in Richmond, Virginia, where Bannon was raised in a conservative, Catholic Democratic household and attended a private, Catholic, military school. It was at Benedictine High School where he first imbibed the notion of a cataclysmic conflict between the Christian (people like Bannon would rather just ignore the “Judeo” part) and Muslim civilizations during the medieval period, one that, in Western Europe at least, culminated in the expulsion of Muslim forces—not to mention Muslims and Jews period—from Spain in 1492. That conflict remains central to Bannon’s worldview, and was severely heightened by the 9/11 attacks.
We also learn about Bannon’s adult life, his service in the Navy, his studies at Harvard Business School and his business career, which ultimately led him into right-wing politics, connected him to the Mercer family, and brought him to the helm of Breitbart.com—which he proudly labeled “the platform of the alt-right.” This story provides background and context to Bannon’s takeover of the Trump campaign in August 2016.
The second story told in Devil’s Bargain is, of course, Trump’s path to the presidency, a journey that began long before Trump and Bannon made whatever bargain they did with one another (who exactly the Devil is in this story is not explicitly revealed). That part of the story is likely to be familiar to most of those who follow politics closely enough to be reading this review.