Steve Bannon left the employ of the White House today. This was a consummation devoutly to be wished. Bannon’s corrupt vision of a new populist nationalism to reverse the coming together of the world’s peoples and to serve as a foundation for a modern crusade against Islam operated as an ideological justification for Trump’s ugliness, offering that ugliness as something bigger — something of generational importance.
Having been one voice among a multitude demanding this dismissal for a very long time in Trump years, I might have greeted this news with a fair measure of joy. I feel no particular joy, and little relief. Bannon no doubt encouraged Trump to indulge his worst instincts as a way of bringing about the chaos Bannon thought required to move the country and the world toward his imagined better place of white Christian nationalism. So I’m pleased that Bannon is no longer drawing a federal salary for this.
But Bannon’s departure from the White House hardly means his departure from American and world politics. The assumption is that he’ll return to his old post at the head of the inflammatory propaganda website Breitbart, backed by the largesse of the Mercer family, and that he might partner with the Mercers on new projects to promote the purgative chaos he craves.
One editor at Breitbart suggested in tweets today that Breitbart would turn against Trump now, declaring war on the Administration for dumping Bannon. Maybe. But I don’t see the logic in that. Bannon and Trump still share a worldview, so they have plenty of reason to build a new working relationship. Trump has a phone. He needs the alt-right base that reads Breitbart and worships Bannon. What else does Trump have at this point, unless he tries to pivot radically either to wholesale acceptance of GOP neoliberalism or to some zone outside either party — a dealmaker for bipartisanship.
Bannon is gone from the White House, and I hope the poser Seb Gorka will be next, but I have no real confidence that the trajectory of the Republic will change, at least in the short run. We await the report of Mr. Mueller.