Via Mediaite. When he said last month that “the anti-establishment thing is kind of a luxury we can’t afford right now,” I guess he meant it!
I don’t know what’s left of the Bannon populist revolution. He set out last year to primary every Republican incumbent on the ballot this fall (except Ted Cruz). In the course of trying to do that, he taught the party two lessons. One, from Alabama, is that even the safest of seats can be fumbled away by gambling on populist firebreathers. Two, from this Hannity clip below, is that populists will be willing to suck it up and vote for any ol’ establishment garbage with a Republican label on it in the general election in the name of keeping Democrats out of power. If it’s risky for the GOP to nominate populist candidates *and* there’s no price to pay with populist voters if it refuses to do so, what incentive does the party have to nominate the sort of candidate that Bannon prefers?
Anyway. His pitch here, to turn out en masse in November to protect Trump from impeachment, is a shrewd one. On the merits it’s silly, as there won’t be anywhere near 67 votes in the Senate in favor of removing Trump next year unless Mueller finds a body in the trunk of the presidential limo. If anything, the Senate will be redder in 2019 than it is now. Keenly aware that impeachment’s going nowhere in the other chamber, Pelosi will be reluctant to do it and risk a political backlash a la 1998, no matter how much it would flatter the leftist id. The real threat to Trump from a Democratic House isn’t removal from office, it’s oversight. But “Vote, or there’ll be committee hearings!” isn’t a sexy pitch to get Republicans motivated for the fall. A sexy pitch is “Vote, or they’ll throw him out of office!” It’s no coincidence that Pelosi downplays impeachment in every interview she gives, knowing how powerful that is to righties as a reason to turn out. Bannon’s no dummy.
Trump’s no dummy either. This is also a shrewd pitch:
At first blush that seems batty. He’s going to force a shutdown right before a midterm — with his party in control of the entire federal government, knowing that the public tends to reflexively blame Republicans for shutdowns even in the best of circumstances? It’s a recipe for disaster! Maybe. But Trump may be calculating that there are simply no more votes left to lose among swing voters, let alone Democrats. Anyone who’d vote against him to punish him for a shutdown was going to vote against him to punish him for other things. The smart move now, a la Bannon, is to focus on base turnout. What’s the one issue more than any other that Republican voters are laser-focused on? Yep, immigration. If you want them at the polls, there are worse ways to get them interested in the election than with a heavyweight fight with Schumer and Pelosi over border security. The way to hold back (or at least diminish) a blue wave isn’t to convince swing voters to vote GOP; if the economy hasn’t already convinced them to do that, nothing will. The way to hold it back is to build a big red dam by getting the GOP base out to vote. Impeachment and immigration are the two surest ways to do that, so they’ll probably end up as the party’s double-barreled message this fall.
Just one wrinkle. McConnell and Ryan will be very, very nervous about a shutdown so soon before the big vote. If they end up crosswise with Trump on that, the fallout will be unpredictable. Will Republican voters turn out to vote anyway at Trump’s behest or will they take a pass because they’re mad at congressional leaders for not being more supportive of the president on his pet issue? An immigration blow-up with Democrats might be useful to the GOP, even if it involves a shutdown, if the party’s united. If it isn’t, I don’t know.