The departure of Steve Bannon from President Trump’s White House will be a far less historical moment than his arrival.
Many attributed Trump’s nuking of political norms to Bannon’s influence. It was Bannon, after all, who constructed the administration’s travel ban. It was Bannon who urged Trump not to give an inch after Charlottesville. Bannon designed Trump’s pre-debate press conference during the campaign with Bill Clinton’s rape accusers and once called Islam a “religion of submission.”
The Editorial Board cannot fault anyone who dreams that a White House without Bannon would be a better one — a sort of “kill the head and the body will die” strategy.
But Donald Trump led his own infamous campaign for more than a year until Bannon arrived last August. Trump and Bannon are the same breed: fellow travelers in a bizarre, new far-right that continues to gain ground.
When we say that Bannon changed U.S. politics forever, we are not referring to the man himself, or even President Trump or Breitbart godfather Andrew Breitbart. We refer to the far-right movement these men nursed and represent, a now inescapable movement of Republican party outcasts, race-baiters, nationalists, fascists and proud Americans.
We live now with the logical reaction to the post-9/11 era. Considering the 2008 crash, a refugee crisis triggered by the destruction of the Middle East and the alienation caused by neoliberalism and technology, the power of the far-right in 2017 seems a natural conclusion.
With liberals unable to articulate the faults of our economic system or U.S. foreign policy, the political vacuum was seized upon by the demagogues that stood backstage: Bannon, Breitbart, Alex Jones and, eventually, Trump.
When too few people say terrorism is blowback from America’s wars or that the economy isn’t harmed by immigration, then the only voices heard will be the race scientists and conspiracy theorists.
The Editorial Board doesn’t know and doesn’t want to guess what Bannon’s resignation will mean for the far-right or Trump’s presidency. But it seems obvious that his resignation had little to do with his white nationalist sympathies, but rather the administration’s generals like James Mattis and Trump himself.
For example, The Atlantic reported that Bannon wanted to privatize the war in Afghanistan while the generals wanted to send more U.S. troops. Yet, it likely came down to Trump’s anger with Bannon’s public image as Trump’s puppet master. “That fucking Steve Bannon taking credit for my election” the President said to a friend.
Despite eventually opposing Bannon’s Afghan war plans in his Monday night speech, the President nevertheless echoed his former chief strategist’s disdain for established U.S. foreign policy.
Though Trump might “share the frustration” of the American people over forever wars in ancient Persia while simultaneously continuing them, his speech’s targeting of entrenched foreign policy elites unabashedly channeled Bannon and the late Breitbart.
This is exactly our point. Removing Bannon from the White House cannot stop the Pandora’s Box of far-right insanity he and Trump have opened. The U.S. state is rotting from the top. Bannon’s legacy is therefore best explained in his own words — “I want to bring everything crashing down and destroy today’s establishment.”