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Farewell, Steve Bannon

Steve Bannon’s rise to fame and (some) power was at least as much the product of the media as of his intellect.  He proffered various cockamamie ideas about the Deep State and the enemies in media, and he certainly helped shape Trump’s biases against immigrants, women, minorities, Jews, and—well, you name it.  Unfortunately, Bannon’s departure is highly unlikely to alter Trump’s nastiness, his longstanding biases, or his administration’s hostility toward mainstream news, Muslims, liberals, environmentalists, educators, and everyone else who gets in its way.  This wide-ranging hostility, so evident from the very outset of Trump’s campaign, is too deeply structured in the administration to suddenly disappear just because one hateful man is gone.

Yet the media cannot resist mythmaking.  From the moment Bannon left, the question that keeps being asked is, Will Bannon be more or less powerful now that he’s outside the government?  Bannon’s baby, Breitbart News, is treated like a giant in the news business, as though where it goes, so goes the alt-right and conservatism in general.  All this is nonsense, it seems to me; Bannon is nothing more than an agitator, and agit-prop is Breitbart’s only claim to fame.  Bannon and Breitbart will have all they can handle simply competing for “most outrageous” with other alt-right outlets.

Is it really necessary to buy into Bannon’s self-description as a “barbarian” or his promise to “crush the opposition”?  The more attention he gets, the more empowered he becomes. Politically, the most important thing about Bannon’s removal from the scene is that, coming on the heels of so many other resignations and firings–and now Breitbart’s blistering assault on Trump’s just-announced Afghanistan policy, and a NY Times report that Trump’s relationship with Senate leader Mitch McConnell has disintegrated Donald Trump’s ability to govern has been seriously weakened.  Such internecine warfare points us to the central issue: electing more progressives to Congress, recapturing the presidency, and thus putting science, empathy, tolerance, and social justice back where they belong.

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Mel Gurtov is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University, Editor-in-Chief of Asian Perspective, an international affairs quarterly and blogs at In the Human Interest.

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