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According to the prevailing media narrative, Steve Bannon is the evil Svengali figure behind the Trump presidency, a right-wing extremist dragging the president in the direction of demagogic and dangerous appeals to the racism and xenophobia always bubbling under surface of American conservatism.

While it is a ludicrous portrayal, completely without foundation, the crucial thing to understand is that some of the most aggressive promoters of this caricature are the inside-the-beltway establishment figures who consider themselves the gatekeepers of the reigning two-party political order and all of its policy trappings — the same crowd that Trump targeted in his inaugural address as having betrayed the people in pursuit of their own power, influence, and enrichment.

The great irony is that, for this old guard, the winning Bannon-Trump brand of populism that proved so effective in redrawing the electoral map (and making the GOP competitive where it had floundered for decades in presidential elections) is a direct threat to their long-standing control of the party’s post-Reagan agenda of free trade, minimal limits on immigration and aggressive foreign interventionism on the part of the world’s last great superpower. Bannon (and Trump by extension) must be reined in and controlled not because they are dragging the party to the extreme right, but because their populist success threatens to blow up the whole old liberal-conservative dichotomy and destroy the Republican policy orthodoxy on which their power rests. In this battle to maintain their hegemony, Bannon has become the surrogate target for the president himself.

The latest fake scare is that Trump has dared to violate hallowed tradition by including Bannon in top secret national security briefings. According to the New York Times, the decision to include his top strategist “has set off an eruption among the Washington national security establishment.” Well, the first rule in Washington is that whenever you read a report of eruptions of dissent, you should consider the sources of that story. The idea that these briefings have always been the exclusive and apolitical province of an elite group of cabinet members, intelligence officers, and national security experts is absurd on its face. Over the years, the National Security Council deliberations have ballooned to include cabinet members jockeying for influence and position, and support staff numbering in the hundreds from State, Defense, the intelligence agencies, and a host of other agencies. Subcabinet officers are working the NSC constantly to push policy, and politics (both inter-agency and national) to infuse every meeting. Politically motivated leaks are a long-standing problem that presidents have struggled with for decades, and paring down the size of the NSC has been discussed for just as long.

The presence of a politico like Bannon is hardly unprecedented; top Obama strategist David Axelrod was frequently in attendance. While Bannon’s presence was formalized with a presidential memo, there’s nothing new about it in the least, regardless of the fevered headlines.

As President’s Trump top strategic advisor, Bannon should obviously be in attendance when decisions are made that impact national security, and the argument that he should be excluded is based less on concerns about his competency or trustworthiness with the nation’s secrets than it is on political vendettas carried out through leaks to the press. The behind-the-scenes promotion of the story that led to the resignation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn is a textbook case of a political vendetta disguised as a security concern: The idea that the same Obama-appointed acting attorney general that refused to enforce the executive order on travel restrictions would conclude that Flynn’s conversations with Russian diplomats regarding sanctions contradicted the public accounts of administration officials is less relevant than the promotion of that bit of information through leaks by his enemies behind the scenes.

The true threat to the Trump presidency is that the usual suspects of the Washington establishment, many of whom have served for decades in admin positions, will derail the core of the Trump agenda and replace it with the same old policy orthodoxy that almost destroyed the party over the past generation. Unless the president and chief strategist Bannon are able to strike while the iron is hot and reset the agenda in and unorthodox Trumpian direction, the forgotten Americans who came to the voting booths in droves to make him president may run out of patience, sooner rather than later. They’ve seen this story before.

Robert Wasinger served in senior advisory and liaison roles in President Donald Trump’s campaign and transition team, after extensive experience on Capitol Hill.

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