Donald Trump announced Sunday that he would choose his campaign manager Stephen Bannon to serve as “Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor to the President,” and that Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus will serve as White House chief of staff.
A statement announcing the decision said that Bannon and Priebus “will continue the effective leadership team they formed during the campaign, working as equal partners to transform the federal government, making it much more efficient, effective and productive.”
The announcement sends mixed signals to those who have been watching Trump’s staffing picks for clues to how he might govern.
The key question is whether or not Trump will govern like a relatively conventional Republican. Will he pivot to the center, or will his presidency be defined by the same hostility toward minority groups and women that dominated his campaign? Will he support House Majority Leader Paul Ryan’s conventionally conservative agenda to block-grant and privatize entitlement spending, or will he push the Republican Party in a new, possibly more controversial direction?
Priebus very much represents “the establishment.” He’s the leader of the national Republican Party and is close friends with Paul Ryan.
Bannon, on the other hand, has been consistently hostile to Ryan and to the Republican “establishment” more generally. He is the executive chair of Breitbart.com, a right-wing “populist” news outlet that has also become a haven for white nationalists and members of the “alt right.”
And when it comes to women’s issues, it’s worth noting that America will have a president who has been accused of sexual assault by more than a dozen women and whose chief adviser (Bannon) was once formally charged with domestic violence.
We’ll have to wait and see whose influence, Priebus’s or Bannon’s, will dominate in the Trump administration.