This October marks the centenary of the Russian Revolution, and just as Lenin and the Bolsheviks overthrew Russia’s ruling class, so Bannon wields Breitbart in his own revolutionary fervour in an attempt to depose the GOP establishment. Using the platform, he’s developed his ‘drain the swamp’ narrative to ‘ooze’ out uncooperative Republicans from Trump’s Congress by pressing for primaries for seven out of the eight establishment GOP Senators seeking re-election in 2018 (leaving aside Ted Cruz).
Much like bankruptcy, Trump is no stranger toRepublican rebellion. Arizona’s junior senator Jeff Flake is the second traditional conservative to announce his lack of desire to run for re-election, coming off the back of establishment Republican (Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee) Bob Corker, both using the political safety this provided them to mince no words in their disapproval of the President. Like indictments from the Muller Investigation, it’s a small but growing group they join – Republican Senators flouting the Trump administration’s legislative agenda. In the midst of this, it’s worth wondering if Bannon’s Republican Revolution is really what the party needs right now.
Will Bannon’s GOP takeover come to fruition? The answer is, like much of politics and a best-selling 2012 book, shades of grey. Two key hurdles to the takeover are: the current Republican establishment inthe primaries and the Democrats in general.
Many D.C. pundits feel the idea of a 2018 ‘America First’ Republican takeover is exaggerated, with the Senate’s high re-election rate (93% in 2016), it’s possible to understand why. However, to underestimate the influence the new right has within the party and assume the outcome based on DC punditry, would be the same mistake Hilary Clinton made walking into 2016. It’ll be wrong to underestimate the ability for a passionate grassroots movement to assume power from the establishment. In the UK this was seen through Jeremy Corbyn’s rapid rise in influence over the UK’s Labour Party, and in recent US history it can be seen with the Tea Party and the 2010 ‘RINOs’ (Republicans In Name Only). Time moves fast in politics and the Tea Party, which irritated President Obama’s first term, seems as old as the one which occurred in Boston Harbour compared to the new movement on the block, America First. There is a clear track record to support the idea that Bannon could be successful. He’s already claimed his first primary scalp, Alabama’s Senator Luther Strange, replacing him with Roy Moore.
Although nationally, Trump may be unpopular (FiveThirtyEight pulling him at 37.3%), establishment Republican leaders Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell fair no better. They’d crave his approval rating, given they are sitting at 29% and 21% respectively (Huffington Post). Additionally Trump has what they don’t and I’m not just talking about a spectacular tan. His particular brand of ‘populist’ conservatism possesses what every politician wishes his supporters to have – fierce loyalty and cognitive dissonance to ignore opposing views, even if they come from their own party!
Most political junkies would identify that much blame rests on Trump’s shoulders for the shambles that was ‘repeal and replace’. However, the feeling within the Republican base places it squarely in the hands of the establishment Republicans in Congress. With Trump’s Twitter and Bannon’s Breitbart possessing the ability for this narrative to be perpetuated directly to the base, there is a real chance for upsets to repeat themselves in the upcoming primaries.
As far as the general election is concerned though… it is still too far away to definitively say. Theoretically, the Democrats could easily ride the anti-Trump sentiment – in a similar way to how the Republicans garnered turnout in 2010 with Obama opposition – lazy late night comedians certainly have!
Additionally it is possible that the Muller indictments and further scandal could stir further desire to vote against aid to Trump’s congressional agenda in Congress. Turnout will be a key deciding factor, Trump’s fiercely loyal base means it is not his largest concern, but if the Democrats seek to win in 2018, they will need to provide a reason to vote blue beyond mere Trump obstructionism.
What can be said, is that the America First wing is not going away any time soon, the Make America Great Again Dream is still thriving, and only time will tell whether Bannon’s push will be successful. How the Democrats react, and how the American powers that be materialise will show us if the movement will succeed. For now however, history is feeling an antiestablishment echo: the same aggression, same red colour being waved, but a different country and radically different political cause 100 years on.