Bannon is gone, but Trump's movement is stronger than ever

Bannon is gone, but Trump's movement is stronger than ever
© Getty Images

Our political elites — the wizards of smart who tell us common folk what to think — are throwing a bipartisan schadenfreude party in Washington to celebrate the fall of Steve BannonStephen (Steve) Kevin BannonBannon says Trump should fire Rosenstein if he doesn’t comply with subpoenas Bannon on migrant family separation: Zero tolerance doesn't have to be justified Hillicon Valley: Fallout from bombshell DOJ report on Clinton probe | AT&T win could see new wave of mergers | World Cup cyber warning | Facebook comms chief stepping down MORE.

The party began in earnest last week when President TrumpDonald John Trump20 weeks out from midterms, Dems and GOP brace for surprises Sessions responds to Nazi comparisons: 'They were keeping the Jews from leaving' Kim Jong Un to visit Beijing this week MORE tweeted out Bannon’s new unfortunate moniker, “Sloppy Steve”, and has continued into this week upon news that Breitbart News is cutting ties with its executive chairman.

Despite the media feeding frenzy surrounding Bannon’s rapid fall from power, Trump remains the President. Trump, by instinct, came to many of the same conclusions in his campaign that Bannon has over the last several years. But ultimately, voters identified with Trumpism, not Bannonism. Bannon’s departure will not spell the undoing of the Trump administration and its agenda unless this feud signals an unlikely decision by the President to abandon the principles that got him elected in the first place.

ADVERTISEMENT
So why, then, has Bannon’s precipitous decline generated so much glee among the bipartisan elite in Washington? Why are people as disparate politically as Bill Kristol and Sally Kohn coming together in such a triumphalist gloating spree?

 

The reason, of course, is simple: Steve Bannon is the personification of everything the elites hate most about the recent populist surge in American politics. His policy prescriptions, which seek to empower working class Americans over America’s aristocracy, make them nauseous. By defeating and marginalizing Steve Bannon, the elites believe they have defeated and marginalized the entire movement that Bannon channeled and therefore regained the upper hand in American politics. That’s what they’re celebrating. That’s their perceived victory.

They’re completely wrong, of course, but why take it away from them? They badly need this moment!

This was a critical “win” for an insecure crowd that has achieved very little over the past two years — or even the past thirty years. The opportunity to come together in a moment of self-adulation was a huge boost to the morale of the cocktail party class, and frankly, we should be happy for them. Now they can maintain their irrational confidence and continue to overestimate their political forecasting batting average. Some people really do need these types of victories, just for the sake of their — ahem — mental stability.

That’s what this celebration was really about. 2016 was a shock that completely demoralized America’s elites. Despite their best efforts to destroy Donald Trump, they couldn’t. Despite every attempt to thrust Jeb Bush, or John Kasich, or Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonKoch brothers group won't back Stewart in Virginia Giuliani says his demand for Mueller probe to be suspended was for show Poll: GOP challenger narrowly leads Heitkamp in North Dakota MORE, or even Evan McMullin upon us, the people loudly and vociferously chose Donald Trump.

The hatred for Steve Bannon is less about “white nationalism” or the “alt-right” — which Bannon in reality has nothing to do with — and more about jealousy and distaste for Bannon’s ability to understand the electorate at large, an electorate who the elites in Washington, D.C., regard as unruly, alien, and primitive.

By erasing Bannon, the elite prognosticators imagine that they have begun the process of erasing the election of Donald Trump from the record books and returning to the political status quo. Such would be easier than dealing with the reality Bannon highlighted: that economic populism and social conservatism combine to make up the majority opinion in the United States, and that the mood of the country is one of complete disgust with the elites in both parties.

But while the defeat of Bannon may give elite Republicans and Democrats a reason to forget their troubles and celebrate for the moment, his demise represents little more than the temporary fall of an individual. Meanwhile, the center-right movement tied together by economic populism and social conservatives, which Bannon spent years building — and did indeed help channel and lead in 2016 — is alive and well, thriving both in the Trump administration, which has made Bannon’s stated goal of deconstructing the administrative state a top priority, and in the minds of the very voters who sent Trump to Washington in the first place.

Bannon may be out of the spotlight for now. But Bannon’s movement — Trump’s movement — the American people’s movement — is stronger than ever. While Trump may be outwardly feuding with Bannon, he certainly isn’t feuding with Bannon ideologically. Those who come to bury Steve Bannon and bask in his comeuppance should take note: the populist conservative movement they hate isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. 

Frank Cannon (@FrankCannonAPP) is the president of the American Principles Project, a nonprofit group dedicated to promoting conservative policies.