ATLANTA -- In Georgia, there’s criticism across party lines of Donald Trump’s hiring of Steven Bannon as White House chief strategist. Bannon helped Trump win the presidency, but critics say his background in what they call white nationalism is troubling.
"Is this 1966?" George Chidi is muttering, shaking his head, referencing a year when race relations in the United States were on edge.
Chidi has been shaking his head a lot over the last week. Donald Trump’s election was rough for Chidi and other Democrats.
"Is David Duke gonna end up with an undersecretary position?" Chidi mutters again, referring to the Louisiana white supremacist and Ku Klux Klan figure.
The shock is fresh again as Trump names Steve Bannon as his White House director of strategy. Bannon helped shape Breitbart, a right-wing news site described by its critics as a hate site.
Chidi stops muttering.
"If you’re trying to send a signal to the country 'oh we’re gonna be fine, race relations will be ok, it was just rhetoric,' you don’t name a guy like this," Chidi, a Democrat and blogger, told 11Alive's Doug Richards Monday near the state Capitol.
But Trump’s backers say Bannon is multidimensional. "I don’t know his affiliations to white nationalism or anything about that," said state Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell), a Trump supporter. But Powell says Bannon deserves credit for helping to shape Trump’s larger message.
"They say he is about draining the swamp, and I presume that means the bureaucracy that surrounds politics in Washington," POwell said. "I think that’s a great idea."
Despite Trump’s election-night win, many Republicans think the GOP needs to be more expansive in its outreach to voters of color. The appointment of Bannon, critics say, contradicts that effort.
"I think they skated along that line – as sometimes Mr. Trump did – of kind of winking and nodding at groups that are outright racists," said Rep. Buzz Brockway (R-Lawrenceville), who said he voted for Trump reluctantly. "That’s not good in the short term for Republicans. Well—I hope that they don’t interpret that, by winning the election, meant that that was a good strategy."