The timely demise of Steve Bannon
It’s almost been a full year since Jan. 20, 2017, the day of President Donald Trump’s inauguration and beginning of what will presumably be four years of a Trump presidency. There’s a lot we could reflect on: We’ve had a pretty memorable 12 months, having gone through multiple attempts at the "Muslim" immigration ban, the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, and an increasingly tense situation with North Korea as a result of various threats and economic sanctions, just to name a few highlights from the cavalcade of headlines. Though it’s gotten especially difficult to up the reality-show level of drama that has become the revolving door of White House employment, in a show of spectacular timeliness, some of the most recent press on Trump has been his furious rejection of the man who wrote his inauguration speech, former Chief Strategist Steve Bannon.
The feud was brought to light by Michael Wolff’s "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House," which apparently is almost entirely composed of quotes from the banished Bannon—which include labeling the infamous Trump Tower meeting with Russia as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic,” in addition to a prediction that the Russia investigation is “going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.” While those who aren’t fans of Trump may be enjoying hearing Bannon rage against his former ally, the upcoming anniversary of the day Bannon’s intentions for our country were laid out in front of us is as good a day as any to reflect on just how lucky we are that Trump cast him out when he did.
For many, the most memorable element of the Jan. 20, 2017, speech was the introduction of "America first,” Trump’s promise that “every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families ... with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.” The slogan isn’t an invention of Bannon’s, but a reference to the America First Committee that was founded in 1940 in opposition to the U.S. fighting against Nazi Germany in World War II. Unsurprisingly, the AFC disbanded after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor but left behind it a lasting historical legacy of anti-Semitism and Nazi-party sympathy.
It’s unlikely that Bannon just stumbled upon “America first" ignorant of the slogan’s ugly history. He’s a founding member of Breitbart News, his self-declared “platform for the alt-right." He was even the organization's executive chairman until Tuesday, Jan. 9, when he stepped down from the position as a result of the extreme backlash he’s received for speaking against Trump, who has long been idolized by many of Bannon’s backers and supporters. These “friends” of Bannon, the members of the alt-right, have become familiar to many since 2016 as constituents of a white-nationalist group that defines itself in opposition to immigration, multiculturalism and political correctness. Most infamously, the so-called alt-right was one of the main “far-right” groups to march on Charlottesville, Virginia, back in August, whose members were recorded and photographed shouting Nazi rallying cries and sporting swastikas, along with other white supremacist symbols. It’s safe to say that many of the neo-Nazis who were there chanting “Jews will not replace us” are just as familiar as Trump’s former chief strategist with the history of American anti-Semitism during World War II that Bannon drudged up in the inauguration speech.
With that in mind, its nice to know that Trump’s anger over the quotes in "Fire and Fury" has presumably ended Bannon’s career as the president’s speechwriter for good. But these developments also show that whatever his motivations for dragging Trump through the mud, Bannon obviously didn’t see the interviews he gave for the book as any threat to his followers in the alt-right. And considering how quickly Bannon’s allies chose their loyalty to the president over their loyalty to the Breitbart founder himself, there’s no indication that Trump’s vision for the U.S. has at all veered from the dream of 1940 that Bannon established during the president's inauguration.