Populism may be gathering steam in Europe, but its future in America remains an open question.
The coup de grace of Steve Bannon’s second sojourn to Europe of the year transpired earlier Friday: a handshake and chat with Viktor Orban, the longtime Hungarian premier and world populist icon.
Bannon’s trip to friendly territory—the illiberal democracies of the Visegrad Group (Hungary and the Czech Republic), capped off by a stop in the populist powderkeg of Italy this weekend—has been nothing short of a success, in achieving three goals.
First, he is carefully praising the president of the United States, with whom he is slowly but surely rehabilitating himself.
In an interview with the BBC, he explicitly rejected the idea that he was “the architect of the 2016 election” and paid obeisance to Trump.
“That’s totally not fair,” said Bannon. “Trump is unique in American political history. .. I came in with 88 days to go. … I came in as CEO and helped kind-of recalibrate. They had lost their message.” Bannon noted: “Donald Trump closed that deal.”
Second, he is seeking to cement his standing as Trumpworld’s and Washington’s emissary to the growing movement of European populists.
“Here’s what so stunning. These elections are not even close now,” Bannon told Hungary’s News4. “The rejection of the party of Davos, in Italy, is two-thirds of the vote.”
In video provided by euronews, ahead of his meeting with Orban, Bannon is seen being warmly greeted by champagne-swilling populist grandees on a boat. At his side was none other than Raheem Kassam, who got his start as Nigel Farage’s right-hand man, and who, it was announced this week, recently resigned from Breitbart London. Kassam this week floated a future run against Sadiq Khan, the London mayor who belongs to the Labour Party.
And Bannon’s third goal for this trip, those in his orbit say, is to provide daylight once and for all between what he sees as the virtuous populist-nationalist movement writ large, and some of the more unsavory elements that have attempted to latch on to it.