What if Bannon wins?

So let’s say it’s 2018, and Bannon’s purge has succeeded. What will the GOP do then? It will probably pursue pretty much the same course it’s on. All the nods to populism notwithstanding, Republicans are still advancing policies that warm the hearts of the elite — just this week they passed a measure making sure that banks that defraud their customers face no legal accountability. There might be more efforts to undermine trade deals that the party has traditionally supported, but that’s about the only area where you’d see a significant departure from what they’d be doing if the Oval Office was inhabited by a different Republican. Everything else — slashing regulations for corporations, undermining the safety net, cutting taxes for the wealthy — is still supported by nearly every Republican, establishment or insurgent.

The handy thing about Bannon/Trump-style politics is that you don’t have to provide anything concrete to your voters. The outrageous statements, the fights Trump starts, the endless complaints about the media — these are ends in themselves, the whole purpose of the enterprise. When Trump blasts NFL players protesting police brutality, or tweets about saving “our great [Confederate] statues/heritage,” or gets into a fight with the widow of a fallen soldier and her congresswoman, he’s delivering exactly what his voters want. He’s making himself a vehicle for their anger and resentment, which is why they flocked to him in the first place.