For those who wondered what Steve Bannon has been doing to earn his keep atop the Trump campaign, we found out on Sunday. Bannon, widely viewed as the intellectual godfather of the "alt right" movement---the über right wing alliance of white nationalist, anti-semitic, anti-whatever groups--was the big winner in Sunday's second Presidential debate.
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton each did what they needed to do on Sunday. Trump was successful in stopping the bleeding in his campaign, which seemed to be on the brink of collapse, and he has made it nearly impossible for more members of Congress to pull back their endorsements of his candidacy. But he did nothing to advance his chances to win in November. For her part, Hillary Clinton was steady and unremarkable. She performed like someone trying to protect her lead, and she did.
But for Steve Bannon and the hard core Trump supporters of the ascendant alt-right, Sunday night was a night for the ages. Gone was the Donald Trump trying to make nice with moderate GOP and independent voters, or to soften his appeal to reach out to Republican woman. Instead, on Sunday night, we saw Donald Trump in full-on attack mode. He might have looked unhinged to the rest of us, but to his hard core base, his relentless attacks on Hillary Clinton and on the entire Clinton era were a soothing balm for their long-festering rage.
Trump channeled that rage, and did it well. And in doing so he dealt a severe blow to Republicans who for the previous 48 hours had been defecting from his ranks. Those Republicans--in particular the senators and House members who are on the ballot four weeks from tomorrow--thought Trump was cratering and they had an opportunity to improve their standing with voters by disavowing their endorsement. Instead, they now face the prospect of being strung up by Trump supporters for their perfidy.
Cuck is the term that the armies of the alt-right will sling at Republicans who chose to cut and run rather than standing by Donald Trump. Cuckservatives--cuck for short--is derived from cuckhold. It has become the term of venomous disdain from the alt-right toward conservative and mainstream Republicans who submit to the niceties of polite society, who lose their will and bow before the power of the mainstream media. And who could be a greater cuck than a Congressman who withdrew his support for Donald Trump because of some decade-old audio recording that was little more than crude, locker room male banter.
Trump voters have reason to be vindictive. For decades now working class white voters have marched in lockstep in support of whatever candidate the GOP put before them. They have supported GOP tax cuts, wars and the free trade agenda that would ultimately destroy their communities. Those voters, it turns out, are neither conservative nor small government Republicans. It is government that they want to see fix their problems, and Donald Trump has promised to do exactly that.
Trump voters have had enough with blind loyalty to a party and a DC establishment that has taken their support for decades and offered little in return. Now, with those communities laid bare as manufacturing plants disappeared to Mexico and China, and the less educated white working class left in an economic and psychological depression, they have found their savior in Donald Trump. If the Party abandons Trump, those voters will turn on those that turned on their man, and will do so with a vengeance.
The GOP without Trump is a political party that offers little or nothing for the economically ravaged communities whose residents have flocked to the New York billionaire. When Paul Ryan was asked two weeks ago if he would support Trump's ambitious infrastructure investment plans, Ryan just laughed, and suggested that Trump's plan was not part of Ryan's conservative "A Better Way" agenda that seeks to radically reduce domestic spending. Suffice it to say, Trump voters are not interested in being told to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. They want their old lives back, and Donald Trump has promised to get it for them. Paul Ryan and his prissy fiscal conservatism do nothing for them.
Several dozen members of Congress outed themselves in the wake of the Access Hollywood video. As those members abandoned Trump--and began loud, public discussions about how to push him off the ticket--they forgot the essential rule of palace uprisings: "You come at the king, you best not miss." On Sunday night, as Donald Trump threw red meat to his followers, he reminded those members and the rest of the GOP that his voters--who comprise a third or more of the GOP electorate--are loyal to him, and him alone.
For Steve Bannon, the events of the weekend leading up to Sunday's debate could not have gone better. It was almost as though he leaked the Access Hollywood video himself, just to smoke out the weak and disloyal, and force them into the open, where his armies in the alt-right media can have a field day taking them down. He does not care one whit whether it costs Republicans the Senate or the House. His war is with the Republican establishment, and he is playing for keeps.
Artwork by Jay Duret. Find him at jayduret.com.