Why Bannon still matters

Weather emergencies and President Donald Trump’s Democrat schmoozing were highest on the list of topics discussed by guests on Sunday’s biggest political talk shows. The interview you didn’t want to miss, however, was former Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s appearance on 60 Minutes with Charlie Rose. He may not have considerable power in Washington after his ouster from the White House, but Bannon and the messaging he crafted for Trump still matter bigly.

During his interview, Bannon characterized the shifts Americans have seen in the Trump White House in the past several weeks are the result of the GOP establishment attempting to “nullify” the 2016 presidential election.

“They do not want Donald Trump‘s populist, economic nationalist agenda to be implemented,” he said. “It’s very obvious.”

According to the former Trump adviser, powerful Republicans made clear early on that Trump’s conservative populist agenda wouldn’t see success in Washington.

“Oh, Mitch McConnell when we first met him, I mean, he was– he was– he– he said, I think in one of the first meetings– in Trump Tower with the president– as we’re wrapping up, he basically says, ‘I don’t want to hear any more of this ‘drain the swamp’ talk,’” he said.

Bannon added: “He says, ‘I can’t– I can’t hire any smart people,’ because everybody’s all over him for reporting requirements and– and the pay, et cetera, and the scrutiny. You know, ‘You gotta back off that.’ The ‘drain the swamp’ thing was– is Mitch McConnell was day one did not want to– did not want to go there. Wanted us to back off.”

Now that he’s outside the administration, Bannon says he is going to war with the establishment.

Those efforts are already underway, and they have GOP insiders worried.

Politico reported on Bannon’s efforts to mount challenges to GOP incumbents in coming elections Sunday:

Bannon has begun holding private meetings with insurgent challengers, vowing his support. He’s coordinating with conservative mega-donor Robert Mercer, who is prepared to pour millions of dollars into attacks on GOP incumbents. Bannon has also installed a confidant at an outside group that is expected to target Republican lawmakers and push the Trump agenda.

The activity has alarmed senior Republicans, who worry it will drain millions of dollars from the party’s coffers to take on Democrats in the general election. McConnell has repeatedly expressed concern to the White House about the danger primaries pose to his members, stressing that it could imperil his narrow four-seat majority, according to three people with direct knowledge of the discussions.

But Bannon and his allies may just be willing to burn down the Republican Party, if for no other reason than they believe the party establishment has already destroyed the Trump administration’s original mission.

“In the 48 hours after we won, there’s a fundamental decision that was made. You might call it the original sin of the administration. We embraced the establishment,” Bannon said.

“I mean, we totally embraced the establishment. I think in President Trump’s mind, or President-Elect Trump’s mind, in– in Jared’s mind, in the family’s mind, I actually agreed with the decision,” he added.

The establishment, as Bannon sees it, must be dismantled at all costs.

If the GOP establishment’s power is weakened by newcomers to the party, Bannon believes Trump will have a better chance of getting back on track with his original proposals.

And that’s the only way the strategist believes he maintains popularity with voters vital to ensuring a second term.

“The only question before us: Is it going to be a left-wing populism or a right-wing populism,” Bannon says. “And that is the question that will be answered in 2020.”

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