The ouster of Stephen Bannon as White House senior strategist has removed the most visible link between President Donald Trump and his populist base. But the nationalist worldview that candidate Trump ran on and Bannon promoted is alive and well. And the core of that agenda is the defense and promotion of U.S. national sovereignty, which Trump’s followers believe is under assault from relentless globalization, encroaching international organizations and uncontrolled immigration.
American sovereigntists, led by the president himself, are determined to defend U.S. independence and reassert control over the nation’s destiny, in their minds, by rejecting “globalism” and placing “America first.” As Trump’s consigliere, Bannon relished his media image as the mastermind behind the throne—equal parts Rasputin, Svengali and Darth Vader. But his true genius was in recognizing, channeling and organizing Trump’s own instincts into a coherent ideology about America’s place in the world.
As executive chairman of the far-right website Breitbart News, Bannon perceived Trump as a kindred spirit—someone convinced that the United States had lost control of its fate and even placed its national identity in jeopardy, by allowing itself to get ripped off by trading partners, played for a sucker by freeloading allies, and overwhelmed by hordes of immigrants. As The Washington Post explained, Bannon’s “worldview, as laid out in interviews and speeches over the past several years, hinges largely on [his] belief in American sovereignty.” Among other convictions, “Bannon said that countries should protect their citizens and their essence by reducing immigration, legal and illegal, and pulling back from multinational agreements.”