Steve Bannon is winning with the old Communist Party playbook

As Bannon, who see himself as a student of history, may know, his tactics mirror those that gave hope to American Communists in the 1940s, but finally fell short. The CPUSA had established a third party, the Progressive Party, which ran Henry A. Wallace for president in 1948. Their hope was that the unions and others on the left would actually put Wallace in the White House, since Truman was running against Republican Thomas Dewey and racist Southern Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond.

That February, a special election was held to fill a vacancy in New York City’s 24th Congressional District. Four candidates ran: a Democrat, a Republican, a member of the Liberal Party, and a pro-Communist supporter of the Wallace third party, Leo Isacson, who ran on the ticket of the Communist-led American Labor Party. Unexpectedly, and to the great shock of the political establishment, Isacson won.

Isacson’s victory, said Wallace—sounding something like Bannon now—proved that his “so-called third party would be the first party in 1948.” National Democrats panicked, thinking that this race showed Wallace’s strength. They were all wrong.