Beware of the Bannon

Beware of the Bannon
© Greg Nash

Washington, D.C. is finally feeling the crisp notes of fall in the air, and establishment Republicans are whispering ghost stories about the monster that wanders the country outside their swampy fiefdom. 

“The Bannon” is striking fear into the hearts of  pearl-clutching Republicans in D.C., terrified they might be on his 2018 list. But just like many ghost stories, this “monster” is one of their own creation.

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Steve Bannon’s power in 2018 lies almost exclusively in the fact that Republicans have failed to fulfill the campaign promises, fueled by tens of millions of dollars off those promises, that have propelled them into office over the last decade.  

 

Perhaps they should take a break from their wailing and look in the mirror, for beyond a shadow of a doubt they have created him and given him the opportunity to bring all of their scheming down. 

Washington has a very short memory, roughly on the level of a fruit fly’s, and those bemoaning what they view as kamikaze politics fail to remember that in the late 1990s, Republicans, mostly those in the Senate, faced the same type of environment — and anger — from their base as the leadership of Trent Lott began to wear thin.  

Back then it was a seeming lack of will to play hardball politics with a Democrat Party that was fraying at the seams in the last days of Clinton. This time the utter failure of Senate Republican leadership centered in Sen. Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat McConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Brent Budowsky: A plea to Alabama voters MORE (R-Ky.) has given rise to Steve Bannon and empowered him. It is the failure to repeal and replace ObamaCare. It is the current failure to build momentum on tax reform, pass a bipartisan infrastructure bill, and any other myriad of positive agenda items.

While McConnell deserves some credit for his insistence in holding Supreme Court nominations until after the 2016 elections, preserving the seat for a star like Judge Gorsuch, beyond this singular achievement, McConnell has demonstrated little, if any, capacity to legislate and govern. Even in Monday’s press conference, while standing right next to the president, McConnell took the opportunity to snipe at the leader of his party. This is hardly the behaviour of a legislature committed to pursuing the policy ideas that led to the the greatest electoral advantage for the GOP since the Great Depression.

Compound Monday’s comments with McConnell’s from August, when he felt compelled to peek out from his shell and inform the world that Trump (and by insinuation his base) had “excessive expectations.” And by excessive expectations, in complete and utter lack of self-awareness, McConnell didn’t appear to be referring to his own words that drove those expectations, from the proclamation coming out of Philadelphia in January that health care, tax reform and infrastructure would be done in the first 200 days. 

Yet, McConnell and the new majority showed up January seemingly without the appearance of a plan or a strategy or even a set of legislative frameworks upon which to build political momentum for "repeal and replace," for tax reform (a legislative agenda item the GOP should absolutely own by now), or even a blueprint for shrinking the size of the federal government and greater accountability. The days of the 1994 political tsunami upon which Republicans took back the House of Representatives for the first time in half a century with a clear set of principles and legislative actions is now truly a distant, distant memory.

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But forget those uncomfortable expectations: the policy ideas being proposed in an America First agenda are not just a Trump agenda or a Republican agenda: they are a common-sense agenda.

Yet in defiance of common sense, driven by whatever petty reasons they might have, or drunk with the influence of special interests, Republican Senators point at the specter of Bannon, with Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Health Care: 3.6M signed up for ObamaCare in first month | Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' next year | Dems push for more money to fight opioids Study: ObamaCare bills backed by Collins would lower premiums Right scrambles GOP budget strategy MORE (R-Maine) bemoaning that Bannon’s rhetoric was “not helpful” (never mind that her no vote on repealing ObamaCare wasn’t helpful) and his “season of war” has melted moderate minds.  

Luther StrangeLuther Johnson StrangeGOP sen: ‘Just a fact’ Moore will face ethics complaint if elected Trevor Noah: Trump must be ‘morally degenerate’ to back Roy Moore Moore gets boost from Bannon in final days of campaign MORE’s loss in Alabama only heightens their fear, because if the Senate majority leader could direct $30 million into defending Strange and yet see him lose by roughly 10 points, there is no protected class. All was laid bare in the Alabama reckoning and the establishment knows it.

To step back from all the weeping and gnashing of teeth, the fact is that Steve Bannon’s work is protecting the GOP majorities and — dare I say — holding the Republican party true to the values it has proclaimed in the past.  

To continue down this path of intentional inability, failing utterly and completely to govern by the principles espoused on the campaign trail, is to virtually guarantee failure and losses in 2018. It cannot continue: you can either save the majorities in Congress or inept leadership. You cannot save both. Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Democrat slams Donald Trump Jr. for ‘serious case of amnesia’ after testimony Skier Lindsey Vonn: I don’t want to represent Trump at Olympics Poll: 4 in 10 Republicans think senior Trump advisers had improper dealings with Russia MORE’s election was a near miss that spared us a Clinton presidency, which would have edified and advanced everything done in the Obama era. So perhaps, spurred by fear and desire for self-preservation, maybe, just maybe, the Republicans in D.C. might just muster up the two ounces of courage needed to pass items that many Americans agree with.

McConnell and company had seven and a half long years in the wilderness to prepare for a Republican president willing to pass their agenda. It seems like they spent the better part of the last decade making boring speeches on CSPAN and fundraising with their wealthy elite donors instead of laying the groundwork to truly bring about the policies they promised their base, that if we had the White House and the House and the Senate and the presidency we would repeal ObamaCare, address the growth of government and save the Republic.

Well, the American people delivered and they simply have not.

Congress, specifically the Senate, hasn’t and isn’t showing the signs that they are even capable of delivering, and so Bannon will get biblical on them. No one is safe: not incumbents, not their corrupt consultants. He has named them by name and they are in his black book. The Republican establishment has sown the wind with their empty promises and should be prepared to reap the whirlwind.

Ned Ryun is a former presidential writer for George W. Bush and the founder and CEO of American Majority. You can find him on Twitter@nedryun.