When last we left, our hero, Li’l Orphan Donnie was in a tight spot. The lyin’ paperboys kept calling him names, the landlady, that mean old Mrs Pelosi had come to repossess the House, Detective Mueller thought that Donnie was mixed up with some Russian delinquents, and the villain, Omar Osa had just finished the last double hitch, tying poor Li’l Donnie to the train tracks. Is this the end?!?
But look! Up in the sky! It’s a turd, it’s a crane, it’s StuporBannon! Faster than a sedated sloth, more powerful than a Heineken fart in church, able to leap tall truths with a single lie, StuporBannon is here to save the day!
Sorry. But that was my takeaway from Ari Melber’s interview with Steve Bannon last night on The Last Word. I thought that Ari did a good job last night, he asked a direct question, and then just kept on feeding out rope, waiting for Bannon to tangle himself up in it. And I wanted to know what Bannon was up to these days. Ever since he slunk out of Alabama last December with his tail between his legs, Bannon has been radio silent. And politically, Bannon is like a mosquito that gets in through a hole in the screen. You spend all night, sitting on the sofa, waving your hand back and forth in front of your face while you try and watch TV, but when you wake up in the morning, you have an itchy red lump on the end of your nose.
Turns out that Bannon has been a busy little mammal. He still loves Der Furor, and he’s raised somewhere between $5-10 million to prove his fealty in the upcoming November House elections. And I thought that Ari put it perfectly in his lead in to the interview, when he said that Bannon is going to help these candidates, whether they want his help or not. Stick a pin in that phrase, because I’ll be back to it later.
Bannon has a plan. Now remember, this is a guy who thought that he would have no trouble controlling some rich real estate developer, and who thought that nobody would ever notice a bunch of English nationals, working for a British company, Cambridge Analytica, embedded in US political campaigns to help out in the election, and who thought that a credibly accused pedophile named Roy Moore was just a gonzo candidate for the US Senate cuz, you know, Alabama. Obviously we’re talking about a political savant here.
So, what’s the plan, Stan? It’s simple, Bannon is going to “educate” the Trump base that the 2018 midterms really are a referendum on Trump, and that if the GOP loses the House, Trump’s Presidency will end in impeachment. Bannon has a “documentary” ready to release, presumably online, called “Trump At War” in which he highlights Der Gropinfuror’s never ending fight against the establishment. I don’t want to rain on parades or anything, but the last documentary I can remember with the words “At War” in it was the iconic “The World At War,” about World War II, and that one didn’t end so well for all of the tall blonde dudes that walked like they didn’t have knee joints, so he might want to consider a last minute name change. And he’s going to be advertising in, and sending surrogates to at risk districts to get the word to the street.
Earlier, I said to stick a pin in the phrase “Whether they want his help or not.” That’s because it turns out that there are a whole lot of GOP House incumbents that really, really don’t want Bannon;s help! True, there are a lot of ruby red districts out there, where Bannon and his merry band of freebooters could help gin up support among Trump’s base, but those figure to be districts that may not need much assistance from Bannon to get the incumbent reelected, so why spend the money there? But there are also a shitload of districts out there, especially suburban districts adjoining major urban areas, where Trump’s name is not the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Because His Lowness is bleeding white, women voters, especially white, college educated women voters like a nicked artery. And while no incumbent with an (R) after his or her name will explicitly run against Trump, the underlying message seems to be shaping up to be, “Go ahead and vote for me, because Trump’s name isn’t on the ballot this year. Please? After all, that extra $4 in your paycheck every week comes in handy sometimes, tight? Huh? Please?” The last thing that those incumbents need is for Stupor Steve to come steaming in there, blasting on his megaphone and making everything about Trump when the incumbent is desperately trying to show that Trump is safely stowed away in the cabinet under the sink in the bathroom.
But actually, there is a much greater risk and problem for the GOP writ large in all of this pecksniffery from Bannon. Reporting has become more common that the GOP is already starting to resign itself to the likelihood of losing the House in November, and that impeachment proceedings will begin sometime in 2019 in the House. Their consolation prize is that they can’t lose the Senate by a large enough number to make an impeachment trial in the Senate possible to convict.
But. BUT. BUT! If Bannon succeeds in making 2018 a “Trump impeachment” referendum, as he seems to be intent on doing, and if the Democrats pick up something akin to 35-45 seats in the House, that changes the entire paradigm, and the calculations, because the GOP is hit with a double whammy. There are something like 26 GOP Senate incumbents up for reelection in 2020, many of whom will already be at risk. If Bannon manages to make the 2018 election a referendum on impeaching Trump, and the Democrats ride a blue tidal wave into control of the House, and draft articles of impeachment against Trump, if those Senators up for reelection in 2020 vote against impeachment, in spite of popular electoral support to do so, they put their reelection campaigns at even greater risk.
And if this election is in fact seen as a referendum on impeaching Trump, and the GOP loses its shirt in the House, this poses as existential threat to the RNC for 2020. because if Trump is not impeached and removed from office, he will almost certainly headline the GOP ballot in 2020. And if that happens, then they run the risk of having an incumbent at the top of the ticket that the majority of Americans already want gone being overwhelmed by a blue tsunami of Democratic voter turnout in a high stakes Presidential election year, losing even more seats in the House and Senate than they would have if they had given Trump the Denver boot.
And one comparison regarding Bannon before I go. Back in 2000, Karl Rove as the ultimate political strategist in the GOP, rising to the level of being referred to as “Bush’s brain.” In 2012, Rove had some insane amount of money, something like $100 million to spend on races. Rove’s performance that cycle was nothing short of abysmal, getting something like a 0.0094% return on investment in successful candidates. As a result of that debacle, when is the last time you heard the name Karl Rove in political chatter? He has disappeared. Steve Bannon is about to embark on exactly the same kind of high risk venture, he is betting the rancho that he can save the House for the GOP in November. If what Bannon actually does is to not only fuck up 2018, but make matters infinitely worse for the GOP in 2020, he could find himself a permanent persona non grata in the GOP, just like Karl Rove.
Which would be a good thing for everybody except Steve bannon, and who gives a shit about him anyway? Don’t touch that dial.