The rise and fall of Steve Bannon
Steve Bannon speaks in support of U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore during a campaign rally in Alabama in December. | Brynn Anderson / AP

It’s a good thing that Stephen K. Bannon, the extreme right provocateur and former Trump White House strategist, has been deposed from his post as chairman of the alt-right (read neo-Nazi and extreme right) Breitbart News. Bannon was forced to step down after pressure from the Trump administration and the website’s main financial backer, hedge fund billionaire Rebekah Mercer.

The former CEO of Trump’s presidential campaign, Bannon, ran afoul of his commander-in-chief after remarkably accusing Donald Trump, Jr., Paul Manafort, and others of treason resulting from the infamous Trump Tower meeting with Russians purporting to have dirt incriminating Hillary Clinton.

Bannon’s spectacular downfall is a significant setback and part of a larger pattern of reversals for Breitbart and the other far-right and fascist-tinged big business forces he represents. Recall that early in the heady days of the Trump administration he, along with Stephen Miller, Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ former protégé, were responsible for drafting the series of executive orders on immigration and other measures aimed at “deconstructing the administrative state” that threw the country into turmoil.

More dangerously, Bannon inserted himself and other partisans of the “Breitbart Contingent” into prominent positions on the National Security Council (NSC), on which the ideologue gave himself, in an unprecedented departure from tradition, a seat, thereby setting off alarm bells in wide circles and precipitating a battle royal between these forces and neo-conservatives led by the newly installed NSC head, General McMaster.

The much lauded Trump strategist had overstepped and was removed forthwith along with his disciples first from the NSC and then forced to resign from the administration itself.

Bannon then, slightly admonished, but no less determined, returned to his perch at Breitbart, where he remained in touch with Trump, reportedly advising him to give comfort to the neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville by equating them with anti-fascist protesters, a moral equivalence disdained by even right-wing Republicans.

During this period Bannon planned, apparently with Trump’s blessing, an assault on “the swamp” in the name of the “America First” agenda, meaning nearly all of the GOP incumbents running for re-election in November, aimed at tilting an already right-wing GOP majority even further right, if that’s possible.

But, no longer. Bannon is gone. His attacks on the Trump family and its associates in which he signaled money laundering and direct connections between the Trump campaign and foreign interests was just too much.

However, the struggle is far from over. Breitbart remains. The white supremacist-inspired “alt-right” movement is still in place, with its backing from the Mercer family (to the tune of $100 million over the last ten years) and other far-right billionaires continuing. Congressional Republican Party, notwithstanding Donald Trump’s growing instability and outrageousness, continues to croon a sickening rendition of “Hail to the Chief.” Buoyed by the GOP tax giveaway, deregulation, and a bullish stock market, the U.S. ruling class claps happily along.

Bannon’s comments in the new book “Fire and Fury” put him on the outs with Trump. Sales of the explosive tell-all continue to be brisk. | Charles Rex Arbogast / AP

And on top of all of this is conductor Trump himself, the race-hating, labor-baiting sexist orchestrating Wall Street’s profit-at-all-costs score.

Bannon is gone, but Bannonism remains: in the anti-immigrant roundups; in deregulation of big business; in the ongoing efforts to dismantle people-helping government programs; in the attempts to isolate China; and in the ongoing organization of the shock troops of Breitbart and other extremist forces. Bannonism is Trumpism.

Calls have been made for Trump to distance himself from the alt-right movement. Good luck.

But even were this to occur, much more needs to be done. Congress should establish a national commission to look into the alt-right’s ties to big business and its influence in the military and national security sector, along with state and local law enforcement. In this regard, an examination and accounting of the spate of racist, sexist, and homophobic murders and terrorist activities during Trump’s tenure is in order.

The damage done to the Republic by these forces is enormous: Only their complete defeat in the 2018 mid-term elections and beyond can set the stage for repairing the ugly tears in the national fabric. That can only begin in earnest with the removal of Trump from office.


PW Editorial Board
PW Editorial Board

People’s World editorial board: Editor-in-Chief John Wojcik,  Managing Editor C.J. Atkins, Copy Editor Eric A. Gordon, Washington D.C. Bureau Chief Mark Gruenberg, Social Media Editor Chauncey K. Robinson, Senior Editor Roberta Wood, Senior Editor Joe Sims