Yesterday, all of the political news media were abuzz with the information posted by The Guardian about a book coming out next week by Michael Wolff, in which the long-anticipated war between Steve Bannon and Donald Trump — which we’d been expecting since the former left the White House to return to Breitbart — finally exploded into open hostility.
I have no real allegiance to either side so I’ll just sit back and watch how things play out, hoping that neither side does too much damage to the country at large. That said, I wouldn’t be a good student of history if I didn’t point out that there have been other individual allegiances between political players that fell apart after their eventual victory. And if history is any guide, things don’t look good for Bannon.
The first that bears mentioning, is Thomas Paine, without whom George Washington would never have had the popular support for his insurrection against the British crown. When Paine was imprisoned in France in 1793, Washington chose not to intervene on his behalf. The rift between them only widened from there and by the time Paine died, he was a pauper and an outcast. While his memory has been revived somewhat in the past 200 years, Washington clearly emerged on top.
Next is Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky and his complicated relationship with Vladimir Lenin. Like Paine, Trotsky was valuable in helping gain popular support for Lenin’s revolution, although by the time Lenin died, Trotsky knew he’d be safer in exile. Trotsky made too many enemies in Lenin’s inner circle, most notably Josef Stalin’s who would ultimately emerge on top. It shouldn’t be a surprise that Trotsky’s death was a political hit.
Finally, we have Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, two revolutionaries who truly needed each other in their quest to achieve their goals. When Castro got into power, he basically ignored Guevara, who was ultimately assassinated by Bolivian revolutionaries. Castro undoubtedly could have helped.
There’s a fourth that I considered putting in this list. I ultimately decided to mention it here but it’s not quite the same as the other three: Charles Guiteau, who believed himself to be responsible for the election of the 20th president of the United States, James Garfield. When he didn’t get the political position he had applied for, he assassinated the president. He was quickly found guilty and executed for his crime.
It bears mentioning that of the pairings mentioned above, only Castro outlived his one-time ally. Living longer, though, doesn’t mean much in the lens of history. Based upon age alone, I would expect Bannon to live longer than Trump. Washington, Lenin, and Castro all got what they wanted. Paine, Trotsky, and Guevara? Not so much.