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 TrumpNFL freezes policy barring players from protesting during anthem McConnell spokesman on Putin visit: 'There is no invitation from Congress' Petition urges University of Virginia not to hire Marc Short MORE.

Bannon told Trump to forget the ways of John McCainJohn Sidney McCainControversial Trump judicial nominee withdraws Trump vows to hold second meeting with Putin Ex-Montenegro leader fires back at Trump: ‘Strangest president' in history 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 GOP attempts to wave Trump off second Putin summit Senate approves resolution warning Trump not to hand over US officials McConnell calls for Senate hearings on Russia sanctions 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 TillersonUS steps up its game in Africa, a continent open for business Matt Drudge shares mock ‘Survivor’ cover suggesting more White House officials will leave this summer 'Daily Show' trolls Trump over Pruitt's resignation MORE, Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump eyes second Putin summit The Hill's Morning Report — Russia furor grips Washington Court rules against Trump administration on transgender military ban 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 FlakeSenate GOP attempts to wave Trump off second Putin summit Senate approves resolution warning Trump not to hand over US officials Flake: Trump's Russia summit ‘truly an Orwellian moment’ MORE of Arizona, Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerGOP senators introduce resolution endorsing ICE Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers eye ban on Chinese surveillance cameras | DOJ walks back link between fraud case, OPM breach | GOP senators question Google on Gmail data | FCC under pressure to delay Sinclair merger review Top Senate Republicans question Google over Gmail data practices MORE of Mississippi and Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerSenate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds Jacky Rosen hits Dean Heller over health care in first negative ad GOP moderates hint at smooth confirmation ahead for Kavanaugh 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 Health Care: Trump officials explore importing prescription drugs | Key ObamaCare, drug pricing regs under review | GOP looks to blunt attacks on rising premiums | Merck to lower some drug prices Dems pressure GOP to take legal action supporting pre-existing conditions Election Countdown: Senate, House Dems build cash advantage | 2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser | Trump has M in war chest | Republican blasts parents for donating to rival | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders to campaign in Kansas MORE of West Virginia and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyDems pressure GOP to take legal action supporting pre-existing conditions Senate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds Fed chief lays out risks of trade war MORE of Indiana.

Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampDems pressure GOP to take legal action supporting pre-existing conditions Election Countdown: Senate, House Dems build cash advantage | 2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser | Trump has M in war chest | Republican blasts parents for donating to rival | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders to campaign in Kansas Senate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds 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 McConnellMcConnell spokesman on Putin visit: 'There is no invitation from Congress' Overnight Defense: Trump inviting Putin to DC | Senate to vote Monday on VA pick | Graham open to US-Russia military coordination in Syria Senate to vote Monday on Trump's VA nominee 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.