No one can know for sure how this ends. Perhaps it’s all papered over, or maybe Bannon keeps his head down to fight another day. But it’s hard to see how Kushner doesn’t prevail in one form or other, together with the faction including his wife, Ivanka Trump, the influential economic adviser and former Goldman Sachs president, Gary Cohn, and deputy national security adviser, Dina Powell.
Who says bipartisanship is dead? With the exception of Powell — a non-ideological Republican — this group is all Democrats, and not lunch-bucket Democrats, but ladies-who-lunch Democrats who have marinated for decades in the financial and social elite of Manhattan.
Their ascendancy would potentially represent Trumpism’s Thermidor. If Jared and Ivanka end up running the joint, it’d be hard to overstate the turnabout from last year’s campaign.
A candidacy whose supporters reviled so-called RINOs may produce a White House run by people who aren’t even RINOs. A populist revolt that disdained people who allegedly spend too much time at Georgetown cocktail parties may result in a White House run by people who have spent too much time at New York cocktail parties (and Fashion Week events, art shows, Metropolitan Museum of Art galas and celebrity birthday parties). The biggest middle finger the mainstream media has ever received in American politics may empower people who care deeply about what’s written about them in The New Yorker and Vogue.
As for Cohn, he would have been the totem of everything Trump was running against in 2016, when he made Goldman Sachs into a kind of swear word. To put it in Jacksonian terms, it would be like Andrew Jackson inveighing against the Second Bank of the United States and then handing his domestic policy portfolio over to its president, Nicholas Biddle.
How did it come to this? Bannon may be taking the fall for the early setbacks of the administration. In addition, Trump’s comment about not needing Bannon as a strategist suggests that he may view his abrasive adviser as unduly self-aggrandizing, or at least as having received too much credit.
As for Cohn, I assume it hasn’t hurt to be the ally of the president’s son-in-law. More fundamentally, it hasn’t hurt to be “the kind of person with whom Trump has spent most of his professional life—sophisticated, pragmatic, effective, a dealmaker,” as this observer puts it.
Can we take this theory one step further? At the risk of indulging in pop psychiatry, I wonder whether Cohn’s most fundamental advantage with Trump is his aura of sophistication and his Wall Street cred — two things that Trump, for all of his successes, never managed to acquire to the same degree.
As Lowry says, no one can know for sure how this ends. But it looks to me like the early conservatism of the Trump administration is fading and that its domestic policy is very much up for grabs.