Rococo: Danger, you haven’t seen the last of me.
Danger: No, but the first of you turns my stomach!
—From The Firesign Theatre’s Nick Danger
My apologies for dredging up a 45-year-old comedy routine you thought you’d never see again, but we haven’t seen the last of Stephen K. Bannon either, and anyone celebrating his demise doesn’t quite grasp the meaning of demise.
There’s no “demising” going on here, merely a transfer of titles. Steve Bannon may no longer have an official locker combination in the White House, but as the man pulling the strings above the marionette who is Donald Trump, his power has probably magnified.
Yesterday Bannon said as much, affirming that he would be more effective fighting from the outside for the Trump agenda. “And anyone who stands in our way,” he said, “we will go to war with.”
Ahh, calming words in a period of turmoil.
Donald Trump had gone out of his way earlier this week to deny that Steve Bannon is a white supremacist. (In an interview Bannon called the neo-Nazis “clowns” and “losers.”) Trump’s words aren’t exactly what one places at the top of his résumé, but it is important to note that Bannon’s rabid nationalism centers mostly on trade and immigration. He may, indeed, not be a white supremacist. But what Trump did not deny—could not deny—was that Bannon is an anti-Semite and a racist—two factors that played major roles in Charlottesville and promise to foment more civil discord in the days, months, and even years to come. And back on his perch at Breitbart News, Bannon will be freer to do and say whatever he wishes. Trump’s base—and probably Trump himself—will continue listening.
Most important, just as Trump possesses no moral compass or awareness of his country’s history, he also has no ideology other than a mishmash of ill-formed, sometimes baseless, usually anecdotal, and often downright ignorant viewpoints on how to restore this country to some illusory greatness that he considers lost—buried under the “contamination” of white Protestant America by blacks, Jews, Muslims, et al. Remember, incidents of Trump’s racism and bigotry punctuate the decades of his adult life. In recent times many of these ideas were buttressed by Bannon’s erudition: only the most sanguine of observers believes that this will stop.
Yes, I’m glad Bannon’s gone: at the very least he’s off the payroll. But even that fact is cold comfort. Remember, so far Trump has been able to accomplish almost nothing in the realm of legislation. But with an unfettered Steve Bannon rallying the base and promoting the president’s lunatic blather, our lives and our country can be damaged in ways we can’t even imagine.
It’s not the time to celebrate.