Steve Bannon has declared war on the GOP Establishment, and the first battle of the war brings us to Alabama.
Bannon has used his attack dogs, the writing staff at Breitbart, to attack Luther Strange and Mitch McConnell. The Senate Majority Leader, however, is no stranger to being attacked. In a return volley, the Senate Leadership Fund, McConnell’s own attack dogs, are pumping tons of money into the race, and plan to dump $4 million more before the September 26 run-off.
But, the SLF is also attacking Bannon directly. The question now becomes: Can Bannon take what he’s been dishing out? Hard to tell.
Bannon is certainly no stranger to being attacked by his political opponents. But, his life in the public eye has not been as prolific as McConnell’s, and McConnell has been taking a beating from conservative media for years. Bannon, meanwhile, really only recently went public, and his short stint in the White House gave him just enough access to get some scrutiny, but not on McConnell’s level.
Really, though, we’re looking at two men who don’t really garner a whole lot of respect from their foes, and it doesn’t really look like they care. However, both sides are going to be facing a tough war, according to the Washington Post.
But the task will not be easy. Strategists from both sides of the party’s divide say recent focus groups and polling have shown that the frustration within the Republican base has only grown since the 2016 election, stoked by an inability to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s health-care law. President Trump, meanwhile, has continued to cast his presidency in opposition to the current ways of Washington, which could encourage primary voters to buck the system in a way that endangers House and Senate incumbents.
“Just as in 2008, the election did little to let the air out of the tires,” said Steven Law, the president of the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC allied with McConnell that plans to spend heavily on Senate primaries in support of incumbents. “The raw material of the electorate is just increasingly volatile.”
Recently, I pulled for the Establishment to win its war against Bannon, because while they are liberal masquerading as conservatives, Bannon is a blight on conservatism, giving voice to elements that are dangerous to our movement and outright insane in their beliefs. Those elements can and will move the conservative movement back. McConnell and his ilk, meanwhile, are just stagnant forces, keeping things as they are.
However, there is no question that McConnell has got to go. The Senate is largely where the failures of the Republican Party are coming from, as it is McConnell’s utter lack of leadership when it comes to fighting back against Democrats that has led us to the stagnation we now see in Washington. Every victory the Republicans could have had by now have effectively died in the Senate thanks to McConnell’s inability to lead and insistence that conservatives not be involved in the negotiations.
And that’s what is going to make 2018 so interesting. McConnell has effectively trapped himself. He has to defend himself from the Right and the Left, and odds are he is going to focus on defending himself from the Right, because those are fights he believes he is more likely to win. Let the Democrats do their thing, so long as he can fill the Republican caucus up with like-minded moderates.
Bannon will be attacking McConnell from the Right, but I don’t think he will win. Nor do I want him to win if the candidates he puts forward are alt-right, Trump-worshiping people who are more interested in embracing Bannon and Trump than they are actually pushing conservatism.
He will likely survive McConnell’s onslaught – it’ll be coming from the SLF, the Chamber of Commerce, and other moderate-to-liberal Republican groups that like the status quo – but conservatism will be the ultimate loser here.
We let this happen. Brace yourselves.