We are headed into what is sure to be one of the most vile electoral battles in recent history. Last week, Steve Bannon, Trump’s former minstrel of malevolence, outlined Trump’s strategy for the midterms in an hour-long interview on Fareed Zakaria’s CNN show. Ousted from the White House and from Breitbart, Bannon is more commentator than commander, but his strategy echoed the foul rant Trump delivered in Macomb County, Michigan, in April.
Trump will purposefully nationalize the midterms, and cowed Republicans will fall in line. This will be a “base-plus election,” Bannon argued. Trump will be “on the ballot in every congressional district.” It will be an up-down vote on Trump; “Trump or Pelosi”—impeachment or continue the Trump course.
Trump will reprise the themes of 2016: Trump against the failed political class, America First against the feckless elite globalists, and, of course, the politics of racial fear and division.
Trump will take credit for the economy, touting the benefits of his top-end tax cuts. But, Bannon warns Republicans, “ads on tax cuts alone [are] not going to resonate.”
The key is Trump’s right-wing nationalist populism. Trump will posture on trade, take on the Chinese, stand up for the American worker, and claim that companies are coming back home.
“The wall,” Bannon argued, is central to this. It is more than “totemic.” Immigration “is about not just sovereignty. It’s about jobs,” Bannon said. Trump has limited the flow of “massive illegal immigration,” Bannon claimed (incorrectly), and “that’s why we have the lowest black unemployment in history…and wages starting to rise particularly in agriculture.”
So, Bannon predicted, when the fiscal year ends in September, if the Congress doesn’t include “full funding” of the wall in the continuing resolution, Trump will shut down the government.
Bannon isn’t simply blowing smoke. In April, Donald Trump traveled to Macomb County, Michigan, to deliver a stump speech that turned into one of his more demented screeds. He savaged “liberal politicians who support criminal aliens…over American citizens. Nancy Pelosi and her gang.” After touting his trade and tax policies, he returned to immigration, denouncing “Democrats in Congress, Nancy Pelosi, Schumer for opposing “every effort…to keep the violent criminals like MS-13 the hell out of our country and to stop the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs which are pouring into our country.”
He promised that the wall would be built, and if Congress didn’t pay for it, “we will close down the country.” (Mexico has somehow slipped the bill). And, of course, since then Trump has once more assailed NFL players for kneeling during the anthem, suggesting that they shouldn’t be in the country.