Bannon’s Opening Shots of the Republican Civil War

“There’s a time and season for everything, and right now, it’s a season of war against the GOP Establishment.”

At the Voter Values Summit on Sunday, Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist who was fired in August, made his vision crystal clear: the civil war is on. (See here for my take on the possible scenarios of this civil war).

Bannon and his followers have steadily been expanding their definition of their arch-enemy, the Deep State. First, it was Obama holdovers in the intelligence community and Federal government; now, it includes the GOP leadership.

This comes after Senator Bob Corker’s now-famous adult daycare comments, Tillerson’s not-wholly-denied “ fucking moron” remark, and the private mutterings of just about any GOP Congressperson near a reporter willing to let them talk off the record. Wise GOP thinkers realize that Trump’s narcissism is burning political bridges with Republicans in ways that only help the Democrats’ odds in 2018. The less Trump achieves, the more the Democrats will gain, they believe.

But Bannon and his allies don’t see it that way. As the head of the Trumpian cultural conservatives, Bannon is declaring war on the only other faction of the GOP able to lead: the business conservatives. These tax cutting, regulation-hating, 1% favoring Republicans happily signed NAFTA, never much cared about illegal immigration so long as it staffed their farms and factories, and outsourced jobs to China, India, Mexico and wherever else it was cheaper to find labor.

To take command of the GOP is to purge this powerful faction. It is a strike directly against Mitch McConnell, who is the ranking business conservative these days, and his allies. Now Bannon is going to run as many primary challenges as he can against every GOP business conservative he can. He’s already won an important contest in Alabama, slipping Roy Moore just past the business gatekeeper of Luther Stranger in the upcoming special Senate election. He certainly thinks he can do it again, having also helped push Trump into a party elite who could barely hide their contempt for him.

The Republican civil war, in other words, is in the open. Bannon is hoping to strike first and rebrand the GOP as a nationalist-cultural party of closed borders and America First policy. Considering the sorry state of the business conservative faction, he will surely get far.