He is the link between the embattled Donald Trump and America's new nationalist tendency. What happens if that link is broken?by Andrew Stuttaford / May 16, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in June 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
Rasputins are not easily done away with. Steve Bannon, for all the speculation, remains Donald Trump’s chief strategist, if perhaps not quite so much of a chief as he’d hoped. This clever, occasionally alarming chancer, is a nationalist and a populist with a willingness to shout the previously unthinkable. He has come to symbolise the rise of an unapologetic new right (of which the notorious “alt-right” represents a wilder, only partly-attached wing) that is set on remaking America.
After all, Bannon was the Donald’s campaign CEO and, before that the presiding genius of Breitbart News, the website that had done so much for Trump, and a bit too for some strands of the alt-right. He not only arrived in the White House as chief strategist, but had also been handed a seat on the National Security Council (NSC), the most important defence and foreign policy forum in the US government. It was an unprecedented appointment for a domestic political adviser. The outsider had arrived.
Just days before, Trump had delivered an inaugural address striking not only for its nationalist “America First” themes, but for its anger. Bannon wrote much of it, along with Stephen Miller, a 31-year-old senior adviser to the president, with an impressive career as an aide on Capitol Hill already behind him.
Miller is a Bannon ally, one of several now in the White House, including the cerebral Michael Anton, a former speechwriter for George W Bush who is now in charge of strategic communications at the NSC. Both Miller and Anton have their critics, but the most controversial Bannonite to turn up at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was Sebastian Gorka, a British-born naturalised American of Hungarian descent, and a former Breitbart News national security editor. It was alleged that parts of his CV were exaggerated and parts obscured, notably a hotly disputed connection to an organisation with roots in Hungary’s grisly wartime past. Gorka’s recruitment was another endorsement of Bannon’s conviction that the west is embroiled in an “existential war” against militant Islam. But by the beginning of May, it looked as if the storm over Gorka was getting too much for the White House. For a while he looked to be on the way out. Then came indications that he was staying put, thanks, supposedly, to Bannon.