Steve Bannon's work was already done – Trump no longer needs his help to embrace white supremacists

Bannon was a pugnacious force in the White House and that will likely live on

Andrew Buncombe
New York
Friday 18 August 2017 20:09 BST
Bannon was a combative figure within the West Wing
Bannon was a combative figure within the West Wing (Getty)

Let the dust settle for the finer details to emerge. Let the fog clear for the competing explanations to drip out.

In the midst of a midday drama, we know Steve Bannon is out of the White House and we know he is not going back. Some reports say he was fired, others that he quit two week ago.

But consider this: it may be that Donald Trump decided he should go, and that Bannon agreed to the decision, because they both knew his work in the West Wing was done.

Those who seek for clues in the alignments of the calendar, may be struck that it is a year and day since the 63-year-old former Breitbart editor joined Trump’s flailing campaign and was asked to knock it into the shape. The man who once served in the Navy, made movies and worked as an investment banker, was introduced to the New York tycoon by Rebekah Mercer, the daughter of Robert Mercer, a hugely influential conservative donor and the head of data company Renaissance Technologies.

If Trump believed he could use Bannon’s influence and connections with the conservative right, Bannon realised he could use Trump as a means of pushing his own white nationalist agenda. After the Mercers' preferred candidate, Ted Cruz, dropped out of the presidential race, they threw their considerable resources behind Trump and Bannon.

Strategist Steve Bannon leaves Trump's turbulent White House

In the seven months Bannon has occupied an office in the White House, the Trump administration has achieved remarkably little; there have been no landmark legislative achievements, no major bills passed. An undertaking to repeal and replace Obamacare was a humiliating failure, and even Trump’s executive orders to crack down on immigrants and ban citizens from six Muslim-majority nations, have been held up by the courts.

But no-one can doubt the tone that Trump has set - bullish, stubborn, populist and unabashedly nationalist. When Trump declared during his Inauguration speech that “from this moment on, it’s going to be America first”, there was little surprise that Bannon was sitting behind him on the dais grinning. It was he, after all, along with fellow nationalist Stephen Miller, who wrote the words.

Reports from inside the White House said Trump clicked with Bannon in a way he did with few others. While he respected and listened to his daughter, Ivanka, and his son-in-law, Jared Kusher, it was Bannon who connected with Trump on a visceral level. Bannon loved it when Trump went head-to-head with the media, which he considered “the opposition”.

Yet in a White House riven by an usual number of factions and rivalries - one White House correspondent said she had identified at least six - Bannon was also an unpopular, confrontational presence in the eyes of many.

It is said he clashed with Trump’s original Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus, with Trump's daughter and son-in-law, who had little time for his crude nationalism, and with various other officials.

Last month, Trump appointed former general John Kelly as his new Chief of Staff. He was tasked with improving discipline. It may be that Bannon realised his special place within Trump’s sphere was coming to an end. One report said he offered his resignation two weeks ago and that officials were waiting for the controversy over the violence in Charlottesville to abate before it was announced.

This week, it was clear Trump had decided it was time for him to go. Asked if he intended to fire his chief strategist, Trump responded: “We’ll see what happens with Mr Bannon, but he’s a good person, and I think the press treats him, frankly, very unfairly.”

Bannon predicted he would last eight months in the White House and said he would work hard to complete as much of his mission as possible within that timeframe. In the end, his forecast was pretty accurate.

And if Bannon’s agenda was to establish a White House that may seem abhorrent to millions of people across America and around the world - but which delights Donald Trump’s base of supporters - than his work there is done.

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