How the mighty have fallen! Only a year ago, Steve Bannon was being feted as the power behind the Trump throne, the stubble-faced grey eminence who would start a trade, if not an actual, war with China and create a new Republican Party that was based on populist rather than corporate interests. Now all that is gone.
After a very public defenestration by Trump, which has resulted in him being ousted from Breitbart, Bannon stands almost bereft on the right. Even his former protege and ally, Steve Miller, stuck the shiv into Bannon, declaring on CNN that he is an ‘angry, vindictive’ person whose ‘grotesque comments are so out of touch with reality’. Bannon has no publication, no financial benefactors, and no influence. Or does he?
For now the Republican establishment is breathing a big sigh of relief. Trump signed a corporate tax bill that rewards corporations first and foremost. Trump indicated yesterday that he’s open to a sweeping immigration bill and can take the ‘heat’ for it from his base. Then there is the state of the Republican Party itself. With Bannon deposed from Breitbart, his ability to support far-right candidates in the 2018 midterm elections is diminished.
So far Trump has demonstrated that he, and he alone, rules the populist movement that he rode to the White House. Bannon, by contrast, has been exposed as something of a pretender. But Bannon does harbour his own presidential ambitions. He is not the first grand vizier to believe he could rule more effectively than the man at the top. Whether he will get a chance to prove it, however, is dubious.
Bannon is more likely to circulate in the right-wing universe of tabloid journalism—he can always start a new website—than to become a serious political player himself. At most, if he wanted to mainstream himself, he could try and reinvent himself as a television pundit but Fox News has already issued a statement indicating it wants nothing to do with him. Even absolution from the notoriously fickle Trump appears improbable. Trump’s evisceration of the man he once called ‘my Steve’ is complete: Bannon is banished.