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Bannon and the fall of 'populism'

E.J. Dionne Jr. on

But Bannon made all of this way too explicit. He also overlooked the large national consensus against neo-Nazis, Klansmen and white supremacists. Trump can't admit that he's playing politics with race, and ethno-nationalism is, fortunately, being challenged more forcefully than ever.

Bannon got into trouble for other reasons as well, notably by directly contradicting Trump's posture on North Korea. His dismissal is a triumph for Cohn, White House chief of staff John Kelly and national security adviser H.R. McMaster. Friends of a steadier foreign policy will cheer Bannon's fall -- although who knew that doves had a secret ally in the former head of Breitbart News?

Bannon's ouster will no doubt be described as a victory for "moderation." But it also underscores that for all of Trump's talk about workers and jobs, his administration's substantive actions have mainly benefited corporate interests. This is especially true of its rolling back of rules around the environment, Wall Street and various worker and consumer protections.

As political scientists Matt Grossmann and David Hopkins observed earlier this month on The Washington Post's "Monkey Cage" blog, Trump's actual behavior, including his "regulatory retrenchment," suggests he is likely to "compile the most conservative policy record of any recent administration."

Trump carried the crucial states of the Midwest because he was not a conventional conservative. Bannon, for all his disturbing inclinations, understood this. Does Trump?

The president's defenders will cheer this decision as an effort to create a more orderly and predictable administration. Just as likely, we are witnessing yet another erratic move from a leader who doesn't know what he believes and was uneasy with an aide who dared imagine that there was a point to his presidency.

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E.J. Dionne's email address is ejdionne@washpost.com. Twitter: @EJDionne.

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group

 

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