Stephen Bannon — Democrats' unlikely new friend

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 TrumpDems flip Wisconsin state Senate seat Sessions: 'We should be like Canada' in how we take in immigrants GOP rep: 'Sheet metal and garbage' everywhere in Haiti MORE.

Bannon told Trump to forget the ways of John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMcCain rips Trump for attacks on press NSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Meghan McCain says her father regrets opposition to MLK Day 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.

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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 CorkerSenate campaign fundraising reports roll in Congress should take the lead on reworking a successful Iran deal North Korea tensions ease ahead of Winter Olympics 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 TillersonDecline in US travel spurs business push for visitors Overnight Defense: GOP chair blames Dems for defense budget holdup | FDA, Pentagon to speed approval of battlefield drugs | Mattis calls North Korea situation 'sobering' Mattis: North Korea situation 'sobering' MORE, Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: GOP chair blames Dems for defense budget holdup | FDA, Pentagon to speed approval of battlefield drugs | Mattis calls North Korea situation 'sobering' Mattis: North Korea situation 'sobering' Trump administration withholds million from UN agency for Palestinians 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.

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 FlakeMcCain rips Trump for attacks on press Bipartisan group to introduce DACA bill in House Flake's anti-Trump speech will make a lot of noise, but not much sense MORE of Arizona, Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerTrump, GOP make peace after tax win — but will it last? Bipartisan senators: Americans need more security info for internet-connected devices Overnight Defense: House GOP going with plan to include full year of defense spending | American held as enemy combatant also a Saudi citizen | Navy adding oxygen monitors to training jets after issues MORE of Mississippi and Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerDemocrats search for 51st net neutrality vote Nevada Dems unveil 2018 campaign mascot: 'Mitch McTurtle' Senate campaign fundraising reports roll in 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) ManchinMcConnell to Dems: Don't hold government 'hostage' over DACA Lawmakers see shutdown’s odds rising Senate campaign fundraising reports roll in MORE of West Virginia and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyDems search for winning playbook GOP anxious with Trump on trade Blue wave of 2018 stops in Indiana and Missouri MORE of Indiana.

Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampPawlenty opts out of Senate run in Minnesota GOP's Cramer won't run for ND Senate seat GOP Rep. Cramer 'trending' toward ND Senate run 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 McConnellSessions: 'We should be like Canada' in how we take in immigrants NSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Overnight Finance: Lawmakers see shutdown odds rising | Trump calls for looser rules for bank loans | Consumer bureau moves to revise payday lending rule | Trump warns China on trade deficit 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.