TTP: Steve Bannon As Duff Green

I’ve spoken and written often about the connection between Donald Trump and his leadership forebear, Andrew Jackson. Jackson, in my view, is the first Donald Trump. I don’t say that to go on a tangent that is specifically pro-Trump or anti-Trump, pro-Jackson or anti-Jackson. I simply maintain this position because I think it works, it helps illuminate the present and future.

The new break between Donald Trump and Steve Bannon is another expression of the Jacksonian shadow behind the 45th president.

Duff Green (pictured above right) like Bannon, broke with his favored president and leader, Andrew Jackson.

Green was one of the early innovators of the “penny press,” a shift in newspaper media in the 1820s and 1830s. Changes in printing technology enabled newspapers to be produced faster and at less cost. The “penny” brand connoted the falling prices of urban-based newspapers that coincided with the arrival of Andrew Jackson as a major political figure.

Green helped usher in a new round of hard-bitten and scandal-soaked media coverage. Indeed, Green and Jackson reversed the status quo of American politics and media by seeking such coverage and exploiting the notoriety that came with it. Theirs was an embrace of unconventional news and conversation, a sharp divergence from the more genteel approach of the previous generation and, dare I say it, the “establishment” of the era.

The break between Jackson and Green reflected a disagreement of note. Green was an unabashed southerner first and foremost whereas Jackson’s southern identity fit within a larger and more robust American context. When Jackson’s vice-president John C. Calhoun, a South Carolinian, pushed hard to advocate for southern power and rights, Green determined to stick by him. Jackson, who had come to hate Calhoun with all the virulence and ferocity of a frontiersman—like Trump, the symbol of the Frontier of pop entertainment and the leisure economy—turned his hostility toward Green almost as much as he did toward Calhoun. Jackson and Green, like Jackson and Calhoun, never reconciled.

So it is in 2018.

By the way, the issue over southern rights and their embodiment in South Carolina contained another element that further links Jackson and Trump. Jackson had his version of James Mattis. As the controversy surrounding South Carolina reached a boiling point, President Andrew Jackson relied on General Winfield Scott to help deal with potential secessionism in South Carolina. Jackson delegated much of the on-the-ground details to Scott. Like Mattis, Scott acted with skill, insight, and brilliance.

I urge you to look for the broader context of the break between Trump and Bannon. As was true with Jackson and South Carolina, it will likely have tentacles that reach far and wide. 

Thanks for reading. All the best, Dan