According to the forthcoming second book on the Trump White House authored by Michael Wolff, Donald Trump’s former close adviser and campaign strategist Steve Bannon expressed worry that whilst the Russagate allegations were a hoax, Trump would lose support due to his alleged dishonesty over his record in business. According to Wolff, when asked whether the Trump organisation was a “semi-criminal enterprise”, Bannon replied that “I think we can drop the ‘semi’ part”.
Wolf further alleges that Bannon felt that Trump would lose personal support if his devoted base were to find out that Trump grossly exaggerated his success in the business world.
For all the wider world knows, Wolff’s outrageous allegations might all be true, might be semi-true or might not true at all. That being said, even if one were to assume the worst about Trump, this in no way impacts the power of the large political movement with which Trump is associated.
Steve Bannon clearly has reason to be upset with Trump on a personal level. After playing what is thought to have been a substantial role in engineering Trump’s incredibly successful 2016 campaign against all odds, Bannon was then invited to part of Trump’s inner White House circle. Soon however, the two found themselves at odds. Less than a year into Trump’s presidency Bannon exited the White House and Trump proceeded to surround himself with more conventional neocon figures including John Bolton and Mike Pompeo.
Insofar as Steve Bannon is concerned, Trump was never the conclusion to the story. Instead, Trump was merely the means to an end – an end that is still far form being reached according to Bannon and his devotees. For Bannon, the revival of a conservative populism that combined an anti-globalist view of nationalism (in an economic and diplomatic sense) with certain elements of pro-working class leftist economic policies was never about one man and even if it were, that one man was certainly not Donald Trump.
It is important to recall that Trump had at one time been considered something of a liberal Democratic (at the turn of the millennium for example). As such, some attest that it was the forcefulness of the ‘Bannonite’ ideology as promoted by Bannon himself, radio host Michael Savage (someone Bannon has publicly acknowledged as a major factor in promoting a conservative/populist movement) and Alex Jones, that convinced Trump that the way to separate himself from the pack was to adopt a long standing political movement as his own, not least because the movement’s erstwhile standard bearers like Pat Buchanan were far too old to sell the message in the age of the internet.
As such, Trump was able to transform himself into a figure who rapidly propelled his way into the heart of politics by becoming the politician who would put the ideas of Bannon, Savage and to some extent Jones into the White House.
The plan worked better than the mainstream media could have imagined. That being said, many in the mainstream media are still not fully aware of what actually happened in 2016. Donald Trump won the election not merely because he was Donald Trump but because he was a political messenger for a political movement that became increasingly popular after the Cold War, but one which until the last three years was not able to capture important political offices.
Now, this movement is becoming ever more pervasive not just on-line and on the streets but in the halls of power. The movement is defined by a social conservatism that is generally less prudish than the conservatism of the 20th century. It is a movement that is theoretically anti-socialist but also opposed to financial capitalism, market and banking de-regulations and neo-liberal economics with almost equal vociferousness. It is generally anti-war but certain sections of the movement make an exception when it comes to provoking China. Finally, the movement has retained the anti-Islamic feelings of many neocons but without the desire to actually take war to Islamic majority countries.
These concepts are not going away anytime soon. In fact, one is seeing the Reaganite/Thatcherite conservative consensus ever more challenged by this new brand of conservatism that looks neither to capitalism nor the militant “spreading of freedom” in foreign lands as sources of inspiration. Instead, it looks towards a socially conservative/traditionalist cultural revival, an emphasis on working class values rather than pseudo-cosmopolitan values and a dislike of anything that appears to be socially “progressive”.
With this in mind, it is utterly naieve to suggest that such a movement pushing for historic political change should rise and fall based on the fortunes of any one person. This is why the insistence among the opponents of this movement to focus all of their efforts on removing Trump from office or otherwise personally embarrassing him are strategically flawed. The same applies to individuals across this growing political movement.
In any political system, individuals come and go but the fundamental ideas behind a popular movement for political change outlast the careers of specific individuals and are often strengthened when new generations take the place of the old in pushing for greater political representation for the movement in question.
Because of this, even if the worst rumours about Donald Trump are true, it simply means that the next person to rise to a position of political leadership in this new movement will be someone other than Donald Trump. If anything, Trump’s successor in the movement will be even more ideologically driven than Trump.