"The anti-establishment thing is kind of a luxury we can’t afford right now," says ... Steve Bannon

Steve Bannon. Generalissimo of the populist-nationalist revolution. A guy who, six months ago, was waging political guerrilla warfare against Senate Republican incumbents from coast to coast.

Now reduced to this.

On behalf of Salon Conservatives Club, it’s my honor to present Steve with the “Cuck of the Year” award for 2018.

[Chris] McDaniel’s faded political fortunes point up one of the more unforeseen effects of Mr. Trump’s leadership of the Republican Party. Instead of elevating the renegade, insurgent conservatives who have vowed to challenge party leaders in Washington — candidates who are politically and temperamentally cut from the same cloth as the president — Mr. Trump has effectively shut off the oxygen to the noisiest and most fractious wing of his party…

Mr. Trump’s repositioning has led some self-styled conservative agitators to acknowledge that their bomb-throwing, anti-establishment playbook is in need of refinement.

“People are starting to realize that the anti-establishment thing is kind of a luxury we can’t afford right now,” said Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s former chief strategist who six months ago said it was his objective to see Mr. McConnell removed as the Senate Republican leader.

In my mind’s eye I imagine Mitch McConnell feeding him a biscuit and giving him a little rub around the ear for that. That’s the only quote from Bannon in the Times story so it’s unclear what he meant when he said populism is counterproductive “right now,” but I assume he’s saying that the midterms look too tight to risk weakening GOP incumbents. If so, that makes no sense: The GOP’s in far better shape electorally at the moment than it was late last year when Bannon’s anti-establishment primary kick was in full swing. On Christmas Day, Democrats led by 13 farking points on the generic ballot, portending a Biblical catastrophe for Republicans this November. Today the lead is 3.2. If anything, Bannon should be making the case that the Trump-led economic boom and the improved Republican midterm outlook has made populists newly viable.

But if he does that it’ll put him crosswise with Trump again. Pope Donald excommunicated him from the church of the right for his blasphemies in Michael Wolff’s book. The only path back to relevance for Bannon is to stay on his good side. And now, after watching Bannon lead the party to ruin in Alabama, Trump’s “good side” is defined by backing boring McConnell-approved establishment incumbents who can win this fall and help advance POTUS’s agenda next year. Bannon’s stuck having to defend that somehow so he’s come up with this half-assed excuse that “right now” is a worse moment for the glorious people’s revolution than last fall was, but in reality he simply can’t afford another tussle with Trump. Like most “people’s revolutions,” the one Bannon helped organize in 2016 has led to a dictatorship with the leader’s word now law in setting Republican orthodoxy. It’s surprising that a smart well-read guy like Bannon didn’t see that coming. Or more likely, he did see it coming but convinced himself that he’d be the power behind the throne. What’s wrong with dictatorship if you get to be the boss’s right-hand man?

I can’t get over him using the word “luxury” to describe populism, though. I’m thunderstruck. Imagine telling him and Breitbart circa summer 2016 that cleaning the Augean stables in Washington of Ryans and McConnells was a “luxury” rather than a necessity so urgent that the fate of the country itself hung on it. All of the “Flight 93 election” garbage from two years ago hinged on the idea that America is far past the point of luxuries in course correction. It needs to be done now. Yesterday. When the average joe is drowning in the swamp’s quicksand, throwing him a rope isn’t a “luxury.” No doubt some of Bannon’s reporter friends are on the phone with him as I write this, asking him to clarify and elaborate, and no doubt Bannon’s riffing at length on ideas he’s absorbed from his latest round of reading — probably something about how his current strategy in bringing nationalism to power is based on the Peloponnesian War or whatever. I’ve got a book in mind myself about the state of the populist revolution after reading that quote of his: “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

Here’s Mr. Establishment reflecting on the state of the Bannon-created popular dictatorship that now rules the GOP.