White House chief strategist Steve Bannon has parted ways with the Trump administration. President Trump reportedly considered removing him as early as April after clashes with White House staff, including Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Bannon’s dismissal was supposed to be announced last week but was delayed by the tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Bannon is a far-right self-proclaimed “economic nationalist” who played a big role in crafting Trump’s messages on national identity, trade, and immigration. Bannon’s strategy — which he developed as the executive chair of Breitbart News — was stoking white resentment of immigrants, Muslims, and Black Lives Matter protesters for political gain. Bannon also held contempt for the GOP establishment and hoped to undermine its “globalist” leanings with a new right-wing populist movement.
Calls for Bannon to be removed hit a fever pitch last week after he was reportedly behind Trump’s decision not to overtly criticize white supremacists in the wake of Charlottesville. Activists demanded the president remove the Bannon-led nationalists in his cabinet while #FireBannon trended on Twitter. The New York Times reported that Bannon feared criticizing the white supremacists would antagonize “a small but energetic part of his base.” Trump responded to the criticism by calling Bannon “not a racist” and a “good man.”
With Bannon out, it’s unclear whether the administration will distance itself from its nationalistic agenda or continue pandering to the alt-right. Given Trump’s flexible political leanings, he was often seen as a vessel for Bannon to enact his populist agenda. Joshua Green writes in his new book (via NPR): “The kind of tragic, Shakespearean irony of the Donald Trump-Steve Bannon relationship is that Bannon finally did find the vessel for his ideas who could get elected president … [but who] now doesn’t have the focus, the wherewithal, the self-control to even do the basic things that a president needs to do.”
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