The Bannon-Trump spat seems a classic case of a Svengali and Prodigy narrative. The anointed prince not willing to play the puppet, ‘hangs’ the mastermind so he alone is seen to be the real power. The Svengali rises again, to wound the prince. In this case, Trump fired Steve Bannon and removed all trappings of power from him. Bannon seems to have hit back shouting, ‘I made you, I will break you’ although not exactly in those words. The results of this spat will be far reaching and perhaps not the way Bannon has considered.
Within a year of the Trump presidency, the United States increasingly looks like a country which has lost the plot. From a power that provided stability to the world and strength to liberal values even when ‘friendly’ countries disregarded it, the USA under Trump now demands value for support. In other words it wants those within its circle to do its bidding. Not many sovereign countries are willing to do that.
It may appear that the US is losing friends around the world. However the long ties and resilience of joint institutions are strong enough to outlast a Trump onslaught. Most countries around the world are waiting for Trump presidency to end and reboot the old order with US at the helm.
Events however may not leave the US in a position to take back its leading role after Trump. It is internal traumas within USA that might change the world as we know it. Under Trump, internal tectonic plates are rising to the surface and a tsunami just waiting to happen seemingly out of nowhere..
Trump has made the so called institutions of checks and balances look impotent as he rides rough shod over each of them one by one. Whatever one might say about him, he is a political genius who has made political veterans look novices. All they can do is shake their heads or come under his umbrage. He has outwitted all of them. The 2016 United States election looked like an internal Republican contest than a Republican-Democrat competition. That was the genius of the Trump fight.
He rose from almost nowhere to take on one of the most sophisticated political establishments and win hands down. He keeps on outwitting it by creating new fields and new rules of the game that not only are the established competitors unable to keep up with but are so disgusted by it that they are unwilling to participate. The ‘establishment’ keeps on hoping that either the Russia enquiry or something else will crush Trump and lead to impeachment. Other are willing to sit it out by the next election and hope Americans will be sensible enough to kick him out. Chances are that his ability to distract may make that unlikely.
Trump however has unleashed deep divisions within America. Race is a big issue now. The black population is not only fast moving away from the administration but is feeling the heat of rising racism from what is called the Trump Base. Racism is now tolerated with impunity. It is isolating the most affected minorities in USA.
More than race, there is now growing fissures between liberal America and the white extreme right wing America. Both are essentially ‘white’. Their division is becoming irreconcilable and pathological. An America which shaped and led the liberal western world, feels under threat by nineteenth century minded Americans who hated blacks, Latinos, Chinese and anyone who didn’t fit their sense of own superiority.
It is this which could start to divide the once very powerful USA irrevocably. With the west coast, California largely liberal and East Coast largely cosmopolitan, it is mid America and the Southern States that are shaping the new United States.
The Bannon – Trump splat is likely to push the ‘Base’ even more to the right. No doubt Bannon is going to try and influence this new empowered America with more extreme rhetoric and blaming Trump to have let them down. Meanwhile Trump is likely to compete with Bannon with equally crazy policies to keep the Base happy.
Bannon is an intellectual and an ideologue, however unsavoury his ideology is. He appears to be a man happier to see his ideas take power and form than actually take over the reigns of power. In that he will be satisfied if Trump walks into his trap and in anger ends up introducing the policies that Bannon actually wants to see in public. The public spat will ironically take away attention from the Russia investigation and Trump’s other destructive ripples to a battle for the Base. The spat is likely to go on and become daily entertainment while the ideas that Bannon wants will insidiously become the administration’s policies without much public scrutiny. It is likely that differences over policies between Trump administration and Democrats might end up taking second stage to the public spats between Trump faction and Bannon faction in the Base.
If Trump lasts another year and this ingenious distraction continues, chances are that this shifting wave to the right will exasperate liberal America so much that it may take extreme steps. Unable to unseat Trump and take back control of the centre of power, it cannot be ruled out that the fissures will become so geographically deep that they may lay the foundations of a break up of the United States in future.
An eventual break up of USA is not so fanciful an idea given the unbelievable series of events that have rocked the world in the last three years. No one expected the Brits to go for Brexit, not even the Brexiters. No one thought that Assad will eventually become stronger. No one dreamt that Mugabe will actually fall. The world has been undergoing a bit of an overhaul, a bit of change from its status quo of ideas. A possible division of America is not such a wild prediction given the depth to which that the fissures have become entrenched within one year of Trump presidency. Nothing will please Putin more, but it is quite possible that even more than Bannon, it is Putin who is the puppet master.