With former White House Senior Counselor Steve Bannon facing subpoenas from both Robert Mueller and the House Intelligence Committee, is it possible for the GOP to leave him high and dry? As a reminder, Bannon went from controlling the Republican Party and its president to being viewed as a leper by the White House in just under a year. Losing his job in Trump’s administration was just the beginning of his fall. As Roy Moore’s biggest backer, he crashed and burned in Alabama’s Senate race. He was then ousted at Breitbart, the site he cofounded. With that, the influential right-wing mouthpiece seemed to no longer be under his own command.
This turn of events might lead some to believe that Bannon is now powerless and impotent in the future of the GOP. They’d be wrong. In terms of political minds both in and out of office, Bannon maintains the highest hand in the battle to control the future of the Republican Party.
It’s not just about what Bannon knows about Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election—it’s about what he’s willing to tell. That should scare leadership within both parties. Many players know the secrets, but Bannon is a constant wild card who could bulldoze the empire at any moment. Of course, he may also choose to protect the emperor. That’s the question we’re waiting to see answered.
On the surface, Bannon’s avoidance of questions and dismissal of subpoenas would lead one to believe he is still covering for the White House. In reality, he may just be enjoying the power that comes with having the collective attention of the electorate, the media and D.C.’s power brokers. Either way, he is undoubtedly still influencing the future of the party and to a greater extent, our the future of our government.
Bannon’s strategic genius is too subtle for a man unwilling to share the spotlight.
Even so, it is critical to keep in mind that Bannon, as an outsider to the worlds that once worshipped him, has to still protect himself. His apparent shielding of the president and by proxy the GOP may only be a byproduct of him keeping himself out of trouble. But that thought discredits his résumé; notably, his savage and relentless tenacity to be one step ahead. Because no matter what Bannon claims, every move he makes is premeditated.
The GOP, alt-right and the campiagn trail were opportune vehicles for Bannon to position himself as a disruptor of democracy, with Donald Trump as the figureheard through which he organized voters into a movement. But his mistake was turning Trump into an elephant bigger than he could rein in. Bannon’s strategic genius is too subtle for a man unwilling to share the spotlight. In other words, Trump will never admit that anyone got him elected except himself, and his MAGA base will just as quickly believe him.
That love for that spotlight is the administration’s biggest problem right now, as it has opened every crevice of the White House to intense scrutiny. We’ll never know whether Bannon could have prevented the president’s increasingly egregious decisions, from declaring Democrats treasonous to demanding a military parade. Along these lines of speculation, Bannon then may still be in control, his absence affecting the administration more than anyone would have guessed.
Thus far, heading into midterms, Bannon has been forcing the GOP through a vise, championing anti-establishment candidates, state by state, in an effort to bring the leader of the free world back to his mercy via gains in Congress. And then there’s Mueller’s subpoena, which Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, promises to enforce.
In the way that Bannon and his team are handling this investigation, it appears the door could be open for him to return to the inner circle soon enough. Protecting the president could jeopardize Bannon in many ways, but it may also be his greatest political move to date.
The coming weeks will tell us more. How far is he willing to go to protect himself? How far is he willing to go to protect Trump?
The Republican establishment had hoped to rid itself of Bannon, and for a brief moment, it did. But with the spotlight (and Mueller’s crosshairs) now on him, he’s regaining control over the future of the party. As Republicans scramble over how to deal, they must also tread lightly with Bannon’s brigade: conversative voters who handed Republicans a presidential victory. No matter what GOP leaders think of him, they know he can bring huge numbers to the ballot boxes. That fact alone will make him a problem the Republican Party well into 2020.