How a radical conservative with “cult-leader magnetism” became a powerful political force.
When Green (co-author: Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture, 2013) first met Steve Bannon in 2011, he “quickly sized him up as a colorful version of a recognizable Washington character type: the political grifter seeking to profit from the latest trend.” An investigative reporter, former senior editor of the Atlantic, and weekly political columnist for the Boston Globe, Green spent the next several years immersed in right-wing politics, resulting in a profile of Bannon for Bloomberg Businessweek, where Green is now senior national correspondent. Drawing on his own articles, as well as interviews and abundant media coverage, the author fashions a vivid, fast-paced narrative about the people and events that culminated in “the greatest political upset in modern American history,” which even the politically astute Green did not see coming. How did this happen? is the question that drives the book. A crucial piece of the puzzle, writes the author, is Bannon, “a brilliant ideologue” and “opportunistic businessman” who, before meeting Trump, had focused his “populist-nationalist ideas” on supporting Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann and on destroying Hillary Clinton. After seven years in the Navy, Bannon, “intoxicated by the go-go Reagan eighties,” set his sights on Wall Street. He got into Harvard Business School, where his working-class roots set him apart from his well-heeled classmates. He excelled academically and was hired by Goldman Sachs, eventually leaving to dabble “in minor Hollywood moguldom,” followed by a stint at a Hong Kong video game company. Back in Los Angeles, he met Andrew Breitbart, who became his guru. Green adroitly portrays many other players in the tumultuous 2016 campaign: Robert Mercer, who “resembled the bloodless capitalist hero in an Ayn Rand novel,” and his savvy daughter Rebekah, who convinced Trump to hire Bannon and Kellyanne Conway; Paul Manafort; Chris Christie; and a cadre of people working to bring down Hillary Clinton.
Behind the scenes and ripped from the headlines, Green’s saga exuberantly traces Trump’s wild ride to the presidency.