When the infamous “Access Hollywood Tape” was released just weeks before the 2016 election, it was only Steve Bannon who told Donald Trump that he would still win. Bannon then devised a dastardly, but bizarrely effective, plan for the Trump campaign to survive that storm and, inexplicably, his words turned out to be prophetic.
Yet, somehow, Bannon was fired as the president’s chief strategist less than a year after that remarkable series of events which, in a different time and era, would have bonded these two men forever. Now, it appears that the “separation,” has become a very nasty divorce, with Bannon ripping the president and his family in Michael Wolff’s new book and Trump saying Bannon “had lost his mind” and engaging in rather laughable legal action against him.
As a result, there has already been a lot of speculation about how this will mean the ultimate demise of Bannon as a significant political figure. Several former Breitbart.com employees have, understandably, used this opportunity to attack him and to predict that he may soon be gone from even the website. As for Trump, today he seemed to mock any attempts at reconciliation which Bannon may undertake, and, even more amazingly, Sarah Sanders said at the White House that Breitbart should consider firing him.
While it is always dangerous, especially in these very strange times, to write someone like Bannon off completely, it does seems that the makings of his political obituary are indeed taking shape. Here are the primary components of why that seems to be the case:
— Trump is proactively ending even the perception that Bannon has access to, or influence over, his presidency and sending clear signals to his allies to attack/abandon him.
— Bannon has apparently lost his major financial backer, the Mercer family.
— Matt Drudge, who controls much of the conservative media world, has made it very clear that he is also anti-Bannon.
— State-run Fox News Channel will also be anti-Bannon as long Trump is (though Sean Hannity, being rather slow, may take a while to fully realize it).
— A weakened and divided Breitbart.com will likely push him aside.
Consequently, Bannon will lose everything upon which his perception of power was based: influence over Trump, access to large amounts of money, enough Internet traffic to impact events, an ability to get his message to the wider “Trump Cult,” and a platform considered strong enough to “weaponize.”
My own educated guess is that Drudge, who has tweeted his support for Breitbart.com to go in a new direction, will now cut off all of his traffic to that website (I have always believed Drudge resented the way Bannon pretended that he created Breitbart.com, rather than his deceased former employee Andrew Breitbart). This is a tactic he used to use on Andrew Breitbart himself (to whom I was very close until 2010) whenever he thought his employee was getting too big for his britches. Drudge, as of this writing, has four links negative towards Bannon at the top of his page, and apparently nothing from Breitbart.com.
Without help from Drudge or Fox News, Breitbart.com is simply not remotely a powerhouse website. I believe that, especially with Breitbart’s base readership largely siding with Trump, that Bannon will eventually be ousted there, perhaps rather soon. Unfortunately, I fear that would then result in legal action from Bannon, which then may end in Andrew’s legacy being even more thoroughly sullied by the Trump insanity than it already has been.
While there are obviously many reasons behind Bannon’s downfall, two of them deserve special attention.
The first is the practical matter that Bannon, the supposed political genius, backed Roy Moore for U.S. Senate in Alabama, ultimately losing the extremely safe seat to fall to a Democrat. Even worse, Bannon convinced Trump (which is super weird since Trump now says Bannon had “lost his mind” months before he took this horrendous advice) to catastrophically re-endorse Moore after he was credibly accused of being a child sex abuser.
At that point, Bannon’s political capital with Trump was gone. Trump cares not what you have done for him in the past, but rather what you are doing for him in the present, or might be able to do for him in the near future. Causing him to be humiliated like that easily erased whatever loyalty Trump may have felt for Bannon.
Then there was the full-frontal attack by Bannon in the Wolff book against two extremely sensitive areas for Trump: his family, and the Russia investigation. That’s when Bannon went from a former friend, to someone who must be destroyed.
But the larger explanation for how/why Bannon is in the midst of this epic fall has to do with a human frailty as old as time itself: hubris.
No matter how many times I see it happen, it is always baffling how often supposedly smart people (almost always men) wrongly think that their success is based on their own greatness, and that the devotion people have to them is based on who they are as a person, rather than in the position they currently hold. This is a phenomenon which is particularly pronounced in the realm of media and politics.
In other words, people like Bannon ridiculously believe that people will remain loyal to them, thanks to their obvious awesomeness, even after they no longer have the same trappings of power. Bannon reminds me of an old rich guy who after losing his fortune still thinks that his gold-digging girlfriend will stick with him.
Because he wrongly believes that his own genius put him where he was (rather than mostly luck), he’s completely oblivious to the reality that he is nothing without his access to Trump and everything else which came with that relationship. Therefore, he is has made massive miscalculations based on the very poor presumption that he, by virtue of his own alleged genius, intrinsically matters to the “Trump Cult.”
I have been outspoken saying that conservatism will suffer greatly because of the Trump presidency, but if Trump really has gotten rid of Steve Bannon, then at least something good, if only by accident, has come about during this extremely painful (though wildly entertaining) process.
John Ziegler hosts a weekly podcast focusing on news media issues and is documentary filmmaker. You can follow him on Twitter at @ZigManFreud or email him at email@example.com
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.