Bannon is the ruler of a small and shrinking kingdom

Bannon is the ruler of a small and shrinking kingdom
© Greg Nash

It is possible that Stephen Bannon is the most powerful person in a Republican Party that is in danger of no longer being the Republican Party and ultimately losing an epic landslide to the Democratic Party in the midterm elections of 2018. 

In an interview with the New York Times days before Virginia voted, Bannon said his candidate for governor, Ed Gillespie, would run so strongly that Democrats should be fearful of the prospect of Trumpism without Trump. 

“He’s closed an enthusiasm gap by rallying around the Trump agenda,” Bannon said.


Bannon was right about one thing: Ed Gillespie, the Washington insider who ran as a Trump-style populist, implementing racially divisive, culture-warrior politics, sure did close the enthusiasm gap.


Before the Virginia voting, it was widely thought by political insiders and widely discussed in political media that it was the Democrats who suffered from an enthusiasm gap.

After the Virginia vote, the political world was stunned by the magnitude of enthusiasm and voter turnout by liberals, moderates, minorities, gays, women and independents who are appalled and alarmed by what Trump is doing to America.

It is indeed possible that Bannon succeeds in his all-out war against the Republican establishment, which he continued shortly after the Virginia voting by calling for the resignation of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

If Bannon succeeds, he could be viewed as the most powerful Republican in America, though after the Virginia vote, a growing number of Republicans may belatedly join the Trump resistance.

Most likely, the Republicans will become neither the party of Trump nor the party of Bannon. Rather, they will become the party of Ed Gillespie-type candidates — weak-willed leaders who fail to stand up to Trump when it counts and pretend to be sympathetic to Trump policies and practices they privately deplore, from a president they privately view with disdain.

To the degree Bannon is a political king or kingmaker, he presides over a small and shrinking kingdom, composed of some 35 percent of the nation, surrounded by a majority of the nation that is hostile to his vision, alarmed by his plans and determined to vote in humongous numbers.

In the political empire of Trump, the emperor has no clothes. Few Americans want to wake up every morning and learn who their president has insulted that day. Most Americans do not want culture wars or racial conflicts to divide their country or deform our politics. 

Patriotic Americans do not want their president supported by a foreign dictator who attacks our democracy, and they do not want a president who has too often praised foreign dictators for reasons that are unfathomable.

Americans do not want a president who promises to drain the swamp, as Trump did, and governs as a crony capitalist, as Trump does.

Whatever the size of the kingdom that Trump or Bannon may command, it is small by the standards of our great nation, and shrinking by the standards of approval ratings that repeatedly fall to new all-time lows.

First, Republicans called liberals Republicans in name only and chased them out of the GOP. Then, the "true believers" made moderate Republicans their targets and began to treat them with contempt.

Now, both the GOP health-care policy fiasco and the GOP tax plans could destroy the political careers of Republicans who represent blue states, while Bannon wages his political wars against moderately conservative Republicans and GOP leaders in Congress.

American politics has reached a cruel and unusual political state. Former DNC Chairwoman Donna Brazile is becoming the favorite Democrat of Republicans, after her appalling book made news days before the 2017 elections.

Meanwhile, Steve Bannon has become the favorite Republican of Democrats following the GOP debacle on election day. 

Brent Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was chief deputy majority whip of the U.S. House of Representatives. He holds an LLM in international financial law from the London School of Economics.