President Trump’s savage excommunication of his former chief strategist Steve Bannon Wednesday has left the movement that carried him to power at a crossroads.
Throughout his time at the helm of Trump’s campaign and inside the White House, Bannon had cultivated an image as the ideological leader of the Trump base—a reputation he retained even after leaving the White House and resuming his role as chairman of Breitbart News. He had continued to talk to the president from time to time, and traveled the country making speeches promoting his agenda.
But comments he made to the journalist Michael Wolff in a new book coming out this month—calling Donald Trump Jr.’s Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer “treasonous” and speculating about the Mueller investigation’s targets—enraged Trump. After excerpts from the book began circulating online, the White House released a statement from Trump saying Bannon had “lost his mind,” and accusing him of leaking to the press throughout his time in the administration.
From the moment Bannon left the White House last year, his stated mission was clear: expanding the coalition that elected Trump into a lasting ideological movement that would remake American politics. Their split tests the limits of both men’s influence within their shared base. It also calls into question whether Trump-style nationalism has a future, or whether it starts and ends with Donald Trump.