The Democratic Party has an unlikely new friend. His name is Stephen Bannon.
You remember Bannon, don’t you? He was the man who is widely credited with being the political Svengali that masterminded the upset victory of Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump pens op-ed on kindergartners learning tech Bharara, Yates tamp down expectations Mueller will bring criminal charges Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax security employee left after breach | Lawmakers float bill to reform warrantless surveillance | Intel leaders keeping collusion probe open MORE.
Bannon told Trump to forget the ways of John McCainJohn Sidney McCainRubio asks Army to kick out West Point grad with pro-communist posts The VA’s woes cannot be pinned on any singular administration Overnight Defense: Mattis offers support for Iran deal | McCain blocks nominees over Afghanistan strategy | Trump, Tillerson spilt raises new questions about N. Korea policy MORE and Mitt Romney and go after those Republicans and independents who have been sitting out those general elections and incite them with real red-meat, nativist, “America first” rhetoric.
Included in the package would be not-too-subtle appeals to bring back the 1950s, when the idea of diversity and inclusion was not championed or, for that matter, even mentioned.
Trump took Bannon’s advice and ran a campaign that would make George Wallace proud.
Once in the presidency, Trump has done nothing to unify the country. People or groups that oppose him, he shuns; those more to his liking, he goes after with venal, vicious and vindictive remarks. Trump is more than pleased to have his rock-solid 40 percent cult following.
The 60 percent majority that despises or is totally embarrassed by him he can just do without.
Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerDeficit hawks voice worry over direction of tax plan The Hill Interview: Budget Chair Black sticks around for now Overnight Finance: White House requests B for disaster relief | Ex-Equifax chief grilled over stock sales | House panel approves B for border wall | Tax plan puts swing-state Republicans in tough spot MORE (R-Tenn.), a very traditional, establishment Republican, has had enough of this president. He speaks for many in his party who have remained silent.
He first said that Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonTrump relationship with Tillerson has been tense for months: report Bill O’Reilly: With Trump, Tillerson coverage, the media takes us all for ‘morons’ Overnight Defense: Tillerson, Trump deny report of rift | Tillerson says he never considered resigning | Trump expresses ‘total confidence’ in secretary | Rubio asks Army to kick out West Point grad MORE, Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Tillerson, Trump deny report of rift | Tillerson says he never considered resigning | Trump expresses ‘total confidence’ in secretary | Rubio asks Army to kick out West Point grad Rubio asks Army to kick out West Point grad with pro-communist posts Trump, honor Obama’s agreement to release Guantanamo detainee MORE and White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE “are those people that help separate our country from chaos.”
Recently he raised the ante via Twitter.
It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.
— Senator Bob Corker (@SenBobCorker) October 8, 2017
And if that was not enough, Corker warned the country and the world that Trump’s words and behavior are putting the United States “on the path to World War III.”
All this brings us back to Bannon.
After Trump was actually elected, Bannon took up a perch in the White House itself. You might have noticed him prominently sitting in the front row while Trump was behind the podium.
But it wasn’t too long before he fell out of favor. He didn’t get along with Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and had a particular disdain for chief economics adviser Gary Cohn.
Bannon was asked to leave.
But instead of being bitter or vengeful toward Trump, he has anointed himself as Trump’s defender in chief and protector of his base. Bannon wants to cleanse the Republican Party of elected officials he believes are not of his ilk.
They include Republican senators such as Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeAuthorizing military force is necessary, but insufficient Republicans jockey for position on immigration McCain, Flake warn against ‘politically-motivated penalties’ for Canadian defense firm MORE of Arizona, Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerGOP establishment doubts Bannon’s primary powers Whatever you think the Alabama special election means, you’re probably wrong Breitbart charts path for 2018 midterm races MORE of Mississippi and Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerNevada senators urge airlines to enact new policies after Las Vegas shooting Dems plan to make gun control an issue in Nevada GOP establishment doubts Bannon’s primary powers MORE of Nevada. These three are up for reelection next year.
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Bannon is actually recruiting candidates to run against these three Republican incumbents.
There are two Democratic incumbents who are up in 2018 and are considered highly vulnerable: Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOvernight Energy: EPA aims to work more closely with industry Overnight Finance: Lawmakers grill Equifax chief over hack | Wells Fargo CEO defends bank’s progress | Trump jokes Puerto Rico threw budget ‘out of whack’ | Mortgage tax fight tests industry clout Lawmakers try again on miners’ pension bill MORE of West Virginia and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyKoch-backed group targets red-state Dems on tax reform Dems plan to make gun control an issue in Nevada Agricultural trade demands investment in MAP and FMD MORE of Indiana.
Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampWells Fargo chief defends bank’s progress in tense Senate hearing Dems plan to make gun control an issue in Nevada Red-state Dems need more from Trump before tax embrace MORE of North Dakota falls into the same category.
Trump won West Virginia by a whopping 36 points and Indiana by a huge 18 points. Bannon wants to field not “establishment Republicans” but Republicans who fit his ideological mode. Moderate, nonpolarizing electable types need not apply.
Very likely, if Bannon has his way, the Republican incumbents could be defeated in a “Bloody Bannon” primary (Arizona, Mississippi and Nevada). That could produce a contested general where Democrats would have a decent chance to pick up three seats.
Couple that with the Dems holding West Virginia and Indiana. Keep in mind both Independents caucus with the Democrats.
Who knows, a political “Hail Mary” might arise soon, in which Roy Moore goes down to Democrat Doug Jones in Alabama this December.
There is a scenario by which the machinations of the “Bannon purge” would not result in adding GOP seats, but the absolute opposite would occur.
Democrats pick up a minimum of three seats, possibly four. The Republican Senate becomes a Democratic Senate.
Bannon would be happy, at least: Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGun proposal picks up GOP support Children’s health-care bill faces new obstacles Dems see Trump as potential ally on gun reform MORE (R-Ky.) would no longer be majority leader.
Then, at the first Wednesday lunch of 2018, the new Democratic majority, before diving into its salads, would be instructed to write warm thank-you notes to its benefactor: Stephen Bannon.
Mark Plotkin is a contributor to the BBC on American politics and a columnist for The Georgetowner. He previously worked as the political analyst for WAMU-FM, Washington’s NPR affiliate, and for WTOP-FM, Washington’s all-news radio station. He is a winner of the Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in writing.