In Bannonism, fights matter more than ideas or accomplishments. The Bannonites aren’t really looking to do anything. They’re looking to be something, and that something is the political equivalent of a surly resident of the local monkey cage, screeching, baring its teeth, and throwing its feces at passersby. The promises of nationalist populism that helped Trump win over disaffected voters are well-known—the swift construction of the wall, mass deportations, torn-up trade deals, and the re-emergence of the economy of the 1950s.
Those promises are increasingly remote, and it’s largely Trump’s fault, but it won’t stop Steve Bannon and his allies from waging a furious blamestorming war against the GOP.
The two dirty secrets of nationalist populism are increasingly obvious. First, it’s not conservative; not even a little. All the fantasies of Trump-Bannon nationalism require a vastly expanded state, with greater powers over the economy and society. Free-market capitalism doesn’t pick economic winners and losers based on the president’s economic nostalgia, and limited-government conservatism isn’t marked a top-down ideological conformity strictly enforced by state media organs.
Second, nationalist populism isn’t a political philosophy or a real governing framework. It’s a con targeting the furious and the febrile, a Facebook click scam disguised as a movement. It’s nothing more than grunting, economically ignorant revanchism against a catalog of imaginary, opera-buffa villains. It requires a constantly expanding catalog of people to blame for an economy that changed more due to technology than a sinister cabal of brown people from faraway lands.
Trump and Kelly dumped Bannon because he was a danger to the presidency. They took the chance that Bannon “outside the tent pissing in” would be less dangerous than allowing him to continue to roam the White House as a free agent, and they might have done so for a simple reason; Steve Bannon’s power was contingent on a conservative media ecosystem that tightly bound Breitbart, Bannon, Fox, Rush, and the other pilot fish of the clickservative media. Their full-throttle amplification of Bannon’s desire to ensure the dismissal of H.R. McMaster as national security adviser didn’t work. Bannon lost battle after battle on trade policy, national security, and immigration. Kelly fired him because the Axis of Adults knew they could, even if it would have only a limited effect, and that Trump would still keep Bannon in his orbit.
You can read the rest at the Daily Beast.