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 TrumpPence: Supreme Court has chance to right 'historic wrong' with abortion ruling Prosecutor says during trial that actor Jussie Smollett staged 'fake hate crime' Overnight Defense & National Security — US, Iran return to negotiating table MORE.

Bannon told Trump to forget the ways of John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP senators appalled by 'ridiculous' House infighting MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace, Chris Christie battle over Fox News Trump's attacks on McConnell seen as prelude to 2024 White House bid 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 CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  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 TillersonHillicon Valley — Blinken unveils new cyber bureau at State Blinken formally announces new State Department cyber bureau Hillicon Valley — TikTok, Snapchat seek to distance themselves from Facebook MORE, Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman Mattis The US can't go back to business as usual with Pakistan The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate nears surprise deal on short-term debt ceiling hike Overnight Defense & National Security — Pentagon chiefs to Congress: Don't default 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 FlakeRubio vows to slow-walk Biden's China, Spain ambassador nominees Senate confirms Thomas Nides as US ambassador to Israel Flake, Cindy McCain among latest Biden ambassadors confirmed after delay MORE of Arizona, Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerRepublicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves Senators: US allies concerned Senate won't pass annual defense bill Overnight Defense & National Security — A new plan to treat Marines 'like human beings' MORE of Mississippi and Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerNevada becomes early Senate battleground Nevada governor Sisolak injured in car accident, released from hospital Democrats brace for tough election year in Nevada 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 ManchinJoe ManchinSchumer: 'Goal' is to pass Biden spending bill before Christmas The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden to update Americans on omicron; Congress back This week: Congress starts year-end legislative sprint MORE of West Virginia and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyBiden to have audience with pope, attend G20 summit Biden taps former Indiana Sen. Donnelly as ambassador to Vatican Republicans may regret restricting reproductive rights MORE of Indiana.

Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampVirginia loss lays bare Democrats' struggle with rural voters Washington's oldest contact sport: Lobbyists scrum to dilute or kill Democrats' tax bill Progressives prepare to launch counterattack in tax fight 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 McConnellOvernight Defense & National Security — US, Iran return to negotiating table Senate GOP blocks defense bill, throwing it into limbo On The Money — Biden stresses calm amid omicron fears 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.