Trump Reverts to Republican Orthodoxy

Ben Silverman, Columnist

Former Breitbart News editor and President Donald Trump’s right-hand man Steve Bannon was ousted from his role on the National Security Council on April 5 and has continued to fall in standing in Trump’s inner circle since then, according to reports from The Hill and Vanity Fair, among others. Recent events have large implications for the remainder of the Trump presidency, as Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump and other establishment Republicans have replaced Bannon at the president’s side. This changing of the guard has influenced Donald’s recent budget proposals, which include a tax cut disproportionately benefiting the wealthy and a lack of funding for his proposed border wall.

The divides within Donald’s circle of advisors began after Bannon didn’t fully brief the president on his own appointment to the NSC, which caused Kushner and Ivanka to voice doubts about him, Vanity Fair recently reported. Bannon in turn accused Kushner and Ivanka of being “anti-movement,” recently converted liberal Democrats who wish to downplay the issues that comprised Donald’s populist appeal.

Bannon has been the mastermind behind President Trump’s revolutionary actions for the past year, including his anti-establishment outrage, mastery over non-mainstream media and radical immigration restrictions. Over the course of his own career, Bannon gravitated toward a philosophy of “economic nationalism,” in which he espoused Reagan-era economic practices with protectionist policies given equal priority. This manifested as Trump’s populism near the end of the campaign, particularly in the fear of working-class jobs going overseas. However, as is now made clear by Trump’s cabinet of entirely special interests, Trump’s populism was a mere show to get him elected.

Bannon is also behind much of Trump’s bolder, more disruptive decisions. The orchestration of the travel ban, for one, was mostly arranged by Bannon. According to a report by Bloomberg, Bannon decided to install the ban as a surprise and do it on the weekend because more people would be compelled to protest if they didn’t have to be at work. Bannon knew that if the order sparked protests, it would garner maximum media coverage, making Trump’s base believe that the president was sticking to his promises.

This backfired. The ban failed entirely, with most of its provisions blocked by judges. Bannon’s plan to muscle through an executive order with the intention of only pleasing Trump’s supporters did not pay off, and Bannon began his fall from Trump’s favor. He continued his slide in the attempt to pass the American Health Care Act, declaring to Republican congressmen, “This is not a debate. You have no choice but to vote for this bill,” according to The Hill. An unidentified Freedom Caucus member responded, “You know, the last time someone ordered me to something, I was 18 years old. And it was my daddy. And I didn’t listen to him, either.” The initial, embarrassing failure of the AHCA depleted even more of Bannon’s political capital.

Bannon’s failures have changed the trajectory of Trump’s presidency. The campaign that seemed to be the hope of agitators and malcontents across the country is on track to be defined by the actions and ideas of a complacent elite. Of course, this might have been Trump’s intention all along, but if so, it remains to be seen just how much Trump’s base actually cared for populism. The new administration continues to be driven by standard Republican orthodoxy, proposing tax cuts that only benefit the wealthy and failing to follow through with the border wall. Trump’s approval ratings in this first term will shed light on the degree to which Trump’s candidacy was actually driven by a populist “economic nationalism,” classic Republican standbys or the sinister cult of personality that was feared from the beginning.