Establishment Republicans and operatives are panicking over recent moves by Breitbart News Executive Chairman and former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon — who is lining up a series of primary challenges in 2018 to lawmakers he sees as hurting President Trump’s agenda.
“Establishment Republicans are getting squeezed to death from within,” Axios reported Wednesday. “In what should be nirvana — all-party control of Washington — they instead are jammed daily between a president who routinely ridicules them for ineptitude — and Steve Bannon, who’s recruiting hardliners to extinguish their very existence.”
The piece cites panicked officials and strategists, including one former Trump White House official who says that Bannon could “wreak havoc” if he is even halfway successful in his 2018 ambitions.
The establishment was given a jolt last month when establishment-backed Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) was beaten decisively by Judge Roy Moore, despite Strange outspending Moore 10-1 and being backed by President Trump — a move about which Trump admitted: “I might have made a mistake.”
According to Axios, Bannon is planning to back primary challengers against every incumbent Republican senator running for re-election in 2018, except Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). He is also looking into gubernatorial and House races.
“Nobody’s safe, we’re coming after all of them,” Bannon told Fox News’ Sean Hannity Tuesday.
The interview with Hannity reportedly sparked a panic among the establishment, including a former Trump official who went on a texting tirade to Axios reporter Jonathan Swan:
You watching Bannon [on] Hannity? Most parties descend into civil war following defeat. We’re about to have one 11 months after we won everything. How do you get tax reform, infrastructure or health care done in that climate? It’s Bannon who could wind up nullifying Trump’s presidency.
The GOP establishment has so far been unable to get tax reform, infrastructure, health care, or a host of other key campaign pledges passed, and 11 months after “we won everything” the GOP has little to show for it in Congress. But it is not Bannon who has made this impossible, but weak establishment leadership and rogue establishment lawmakers such as Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).
“It’s Bannon who could hand a house of a Congress back to Dems,” the official said, without apparently noting that there appears to be little difference between a Democrat-controlled Congress and a Republican-controlled one if a red Congress cannot pass a basic Republican agenda.
Others tried to dismiss Bannon’s effort, with one top Republican operative comparing him to Ini Kamoza’s 1994 sensational hit “Here Comes the Hotstepper”: ‘Oh, yeah. I remember that song. What the hell happened to him? Just that one song, huh?”
“Steve Bannon has made himself the center of the campaign at this point and as with all vanity projects, they rise and fall rapidly. He is the single biggest impediment to the Trump agenda, period,” the operative said, although he did not clarify what role Bannon played, for instance, in the failure of Obamacare repeal in the Senate.
But the combination of the establishment freakout and Axio’s own glum analysis indicates that Bannon is much more than just a lyrical gangster.
“But make no mistake: the combo of his fame with the base + access to Mercer money + true belief in America first policies = big trouble for establishment Republicans in 2018 and beyond,” the outlet warns, saying Bannon could usher in a civil war that would make 2010 look like a “tea party.”
To quote Kamoza’s famous 1994 song: “No, no we don’t die, yes we multiply.”
Adam Shaw is a Breitbart News politics reporter based in New York. Follow Adam on Twitter: @AdamShawNY