M. K. Bhadrakumar |
An imminent departure of the White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon had been talked about for weeks, even months. But when Bannon’s sacking was announced on Friday, it begins to wear the look of a political earthquake. Things are not going to be the same again.
One of Trump’s own acerbic tweets two years ago, ironically, may come to haunt him
Bannon was the architect of Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election. He assembled Trump’s populist platform built around seamless promises of job creation through infrastructure investments, curbs on immigration, and economic nationalism (‘America First’.) But Bannon was also the ideologue of the regime built on a mass base of far-right forces and the working class, of all races and ethnicities, tapping into widespread anger and disillusionment towards traditional political forms.
His denunciations at Democrats and Republicans alike aimed at creating the mass base for Trump. Bannon brilliantly succeeded. However, last week’s shocking events in Charlottesville exposed Bannon’s narrative of social tensions in America in purely racial terms.
Charlottesville, Virginia exploded last Saturday into violence when far-right elements and neo-Nazis opposed the efforts to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, the general who led the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War. In the course of the violence, one neo-Nazi drove his car into a group of peaceful anti-racist protesters, killing a 32-year-old woman.
It’s almost like the United States has no President – we are a rudderless ship heading for a major disaster. Good luck everyone
A series of appalling remarks in the downstream by Trump were a calculated overture to the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who rioted in Charlottesville, presumably aimed at intensifying his political appeal to racist and fascist forces. But Trump’s remarks provoked widespread outrage.
The politics behind the remarks aimed at appealing to a fascist movement in the US, which would combine racism, religious fundamentalism, economic nationalism, and militarism. Bannon, as the White House chief strategist, had to go in the political firestorm that followed Trump’s public defense of neo-Nazis. He must be leaving Trump’s team as an embittered man. Bannon told the Weekly Standard magazine:
- The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over. We still have a huge movement, and we will make something of this Trump presidency. But that presidency is over. It’ll be something else. And there’ll be all kinds of fights, and there’ll be good days and bad days, but that presidency is over.
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However, Bannon also said, “I’m leaving the White House and going to war for Trump against his opponents—on Capitol Hill, in the media, and in corporate America.” He targeted the Republican establishment, in particular. For sure, he won’t be going quietly. And now he is truly unbound, freed of constraints.
There is no question that with or without Bannon as his strategist, Trump will only double down on his efforts to whip up extreme right-wing elements
Bannon’s exit will also impact Trump’s foreign policies. Where things are going to be very different from now on is that Bannon was truly anti-empire, anti-war, anti-interventionism in the US foreign policies.
He opposed the missile strike in Syria; he was deeply skeptical about US involvement in the Syrian war; he didn’t favor US intervention for regime change in Venezuela; he was dead against a war in the Korean Peninsula; and, he counseled US disengagement from Afghanistan and pressed for an end to the war. Only last Thursday, New York Times had carried an insightful report authored by Mark Lander on Bannon’s world-view and how that put him in the crosshairs of the generals. (Times)
Without the check and balance that Bannon represented, the military hawks and interventionists get the upper hand in policy-making in the White House – Chief of Staff General Kelly, Defence Secretary James Mattis and National Security Advisor HR McMaster. Three generals in virtual control of US foreign policy – this is an unprecedented situation in US political history. And none of them has been trained to evaluate or take political decisions.
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Bannon, as the White House chief strategist, had to go in the political firestorm that followed Trump’s public defense of neo-Nazis
A much bigger question also arises: Who will set the compass now onward for the overall political calendar for the Trump presidency? There is no question that with or without Bannon as his strategist, Trump will only double down on his efforts to whip up extreme right-wing elements in his bid for a second term as president.
Trump’s politics is a noxious manifestation of the deepening crisis and decay of America’s political economy. Simply put, the images of Nazi thugs rampaging through a university town and terrorizing students and other residents while smirking policemen passively stood by and all but openly signalling their encouragement to the attackers have starkly exposed that the US policy, which presumes to preach morality to the world and claims to uphold the rule of law and democratic stability, is in reality in a shambles and is breaking apart at the seams.
One of Trump’s own acerbic tweets two years ago, ironically, may come to haunt him. This is what he had tweeted once about Obama in March 2014: “It’s almost like the United States has no President – we are a rudderless ship heading for a major disaster. Good luck everyone!” Read a riveting essay by Robin Wright at the New Yorker magazine – Is America Headed for a New Kind of Civil War?
M. K. Bhadrakumar has served as a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service for over 29 years, with postings as India’s ambassador to Uzbekistan (1995-1998) and to Turkey (1998-2001). He writes extensively in Indian newspapers, Asia Times and the “Indian Punchline”. This piece was first published in Indian Punchline. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.