Analysis: Trump Fires Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon

Stephen Bannon speaking at CPAC 2017. (Unmodified photo by Michael Vadon used under a Creative Commons license.

On August 18th, Steve Bannon reached an agreement with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly that resulted in his removal from the role of President Donald Trump’s chief strategist. The term “agreement” is used since over the last two weeks Bannon was given the option to resign, but chose instead to be ousted.

In a press statement, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve’s last day. We are grateful for his service and wish him the best.”

The decision to be ousted was obviously relatively amicable since Bannon declared that he would be “Going to war for Trump” from outside of the White House. Bannon intends to use his conservative news outlet Breitbart to engage in his rhetorical “warfare” supporting President Trump.

Bannon immediately returned to his role as executive chairman at Breitbart News. He received a warm welcome on the websites’ homepage which labeled him as a “Populist Hero”. Bannon’s transition period from the White House to Breitbart was very short-lived as he lead the evening editorial meeting on Friday, August 18th, the same day he was ousted from the White House.

According to a report by Bloomberg Politics, it should not be surprising how quickly Bannon returned to his role at Breitbart. A source close to Bannon disclosed that conservative billionaire Robert Mercer met with Bannon on Wednesday to map out a post-White House game-plan for Bannon that would help Trump push his agenda.

Bannons’ departure comes at a time when the administration is being heavily criticized for Trump’s remarks regarding violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. It is possible that his departure may be timed to offset some media attention given Trump’s reported mishandling of the White House’s responses to the events in Charlottesville. However, explicitly explaining the recent spike in turnover within the White House is difficult due to a lack of a clear dismissal pattern.

Turnover within presidential cabinets is certainly not uncommon. According to data complied by Smart Politics writer Eric Ostermeier, the average turnover rate from official cabinet positions since 1933 is .56. A turnover rate of .56 would suggest that the average rate of departure is .56 for each cabinet post. This rate does not include cabinet-level positions like chief of staff. Although this data does not compare the exact same positions, a high rate of turnover should be expected for any presidents’ cabinet or inner circle.

According to Bloomberg reporting and data, to best analyze the short-term financial impact of Bannon’s removal, one would note that the S&P 500 finished down on the day. Economically, ousting Bannon made investors believe that a direct confrontation with China over trade was created.

Bannon was traditionally perceived as being the driving force behind much of Trumps’ nationalistic rhetoric. Despite Bannon’s dedication to Trump’s agenda from outside the White House, his removal may signify a response to heightened criticism involving Trumps’ perpetually divisive cultural statements about transgender rights and ‘alt-right’ activities.

Removing Bannon from directly influencing Trump could suggest future policy changes intended to be less polarizing and to respond to his historically low approval ratings.

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