‘Bannon the barbarian’ ousted from White House
A year after joining Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, Steve Bannon has left the West Wing. He was the most divisive figure in Trump’s inner circle — so is his departure a turning point?
“Winter is here.” “He’s a tiger being let out of his cage.” “He’s going nuclear.” “There will be consequences.” “It may turn out to be the beginning of the end for the Trump administration.”
Steve Bannon may just have one the most colourful White House CVs in recent history. He spent time in the navy, investment banking, Hollywood films and political documentaries, before eventually leading the controversial far-right website Breitbart. In 2016 he was hired as Donald Trump’s campaign boss. Since January, he has served as Trump’s chief strategist.
Now, his stint in politics is over. On Friday, one of the worst weeks of Trump’s presidency ended with Bannon’s abrupt departure from the White House.
Within hours he was back in charge of Breitbart, while “friends” and “sources” were speaking out about the drama to come. “Steve is now unchained. He’s going nuclear,” one told The Atlantic. “You have no idea.”
Bannon’s message was similarly strident. “I’m going to war for Trump,” he told Bloomberg, arguing that he would have more influence outside the White House than within it. Earlier, he had told The Weekly Standard: “The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over.” He blamed moderate Republicans for not backing Trump’s core agenda.
“I am definitely going to crush the opposition,” he added.
For Bannon, “the opposition” is not just Democrats and liberals; it is also most leaders of the Republican Party, whom he has repeatedly disparaged as “sell-outs” and “crony capitalists”.
He sees himself as a champion of Trump’s white working-class base, and a revolutionary who is ready to “destroy the state” and “bring everything crashing down.” His extreme positions have made him a hero of the alt-right and white nationalists, even if he has distanced himself from those movements.
Many have portrayed Bannon as a puppeteer-like figure. So what will happen now that he has gone?
Some say that this will change everything. The public is turning against the kind of nationalism that Bannon embodies, after it led to a woman’s death in Charlottesville last weekend. The end of the Bannon era also signals the growing influence of chief of staff John Kelly, who was hired to bring some order to Trump’s chaotic team. Do not be surprised to see a more moderate president from now on.
“Unlikely,” respond others. Trump did not fire Bannon over a political disagreement. His response to Charlottesville, in which he blamed “both sides” for the violence, was textbook Bannon. No, he was simply angry that Bannon was being portrayed as the power behind the throne. The pair will undoubtedly stay in touch, and their vision for America has not changed a bit.
- Was the firing of Steve Bannon a turning point for President Trump?
- Trump returns from holiday today. What should he focus on over the next few weeks?
- Imagine you are an adviser to President Trump. Write a list of five bullet points explaining what you think he should do this week.
- Research more about Steve Bannon’s political opinions, and write a paragraph summarising them. Then write a second paragraph which compares them with your own.
Some People Say...
“Fear is a good thing. Fear is going to lead you to take action.”Steve Bannon
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- Bannon’s time at the White House ended on Friday, a year and a day after he was hired to run Trump’s presidential campaign. He has returned to his position as executive chairman of Breitbart News. Rumours of his downfall have been swirling for months, ever since he was dropped from the National Security Council in April. Last week, the rumours intensified after he criticised President Trump’s threat of war against North Korea.
- What do we not know?
- Who really decided that Bannon should go. He claimed he only ever intended to serve Trump for a year, but others say he was fired. We also do not know the true reason, although there are rumours that he was responsible for many leaks from the White House, and he was constantly at loggerheads with other aides and advisers.
- A far-right news and opinion website.
- Worst weeks
- Last weekend a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, ended in the death of counterprotester Heather Heyer. Trump’s response was criticised by Republicans and Democrats alike, and led to the resignation of several chief executives from advisory boards.
- Abrupt departure
- Bannon and the chief of staff, John Kelly, had “mutually agreed” that his time was up, said press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Friday. While Bannon says he resigned two weeks ago, The New York Times reported that Trump was looking for a way to push him out.
- Core agenda
- Particularly the US-Mexico border wall and his promised crack-downs on free trade and immigration.
- An extreme faction of right-wing activists, largely found online.
- White nationalists
- Those who believe that their country should remain majority white, and that white people should dominate culture and politics.
- Bannon helped draft Trump’s inauguration speech, and the controversial “Muslim ban” that dominated the early months of the presidency.