Citizen Bannon

Tony Quinn
Editor, California Target Book

Citizen Bannon came to California last week to address the Republican State Convention.  Bannon is the Republican Party’s answer to Maximilien Francois de Robespierre, the “citizen” revolutionary who in 1790 brought the Reign of Terror to the French Revolution. Having destroyed the French establishment by guillotine without trial, Citizen Robespierre was himself guillotined without trial in 1794.  Bannon wants to impose a similar reign of terror on the nation’s Republican establishment, and will probably suffer a similar fate, although it may take a while.

It is not odd that Bannon would come to California to attack the political establishment, but what is odd is who invited him: the California Republican Party.  As recently as two decades ago, the GOP was the political establishment in California, having elected three successful Republican governors over 25 years.

But no more; there is very little likelihood that there will even be a Republican in the runoff for governor next year, and there is no chance there will be a Republican candidate for US Senate.  The party’s share of California registration will fall below No Party Preference in 2018, and its donor class will continue shifting its funding to elect business friendly Democrats.

As an organism dies it often feeds upon itself, and the Bannon invite shows that this is happening to California Republicans.  The one GOP leader who actually accomplished something this year, former Assembly GOP leader Chad Mayes, was unceremoniously dumped.  Republicans want to run in 2018 on opposition to the gas tax increase, although the California business community strongly supports that tax increase, seeing restoring the state’s transportation network as vital to continued wealth creation in California.  Business money will be used to defeat Republicans next year by bringing Democrats out to vote for the gas tax.

Perhaps the most amazing of Bannon’s utterances to the GOP convention was his attack on California’s premier creators of wealth, Silicon Valley.  According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Bannon lumped the “lords of Silicon Valley” together with the “lobbyists, consultants, corporatists and global elites” who are ruining the country.

That Bannon’s views are outside the political mainstream of the national Republican Party and of dynamic forces shaping the modern American economy is certainly obvious, and by inviting him as their convention speaker the California GOP has decided to join that nether world as well.  This places the California Republican Party among those who disdain California generators of wealth, certainly a far cry from the days of Ronald Reagan.

But the Republicans in Washington, led by the Trump Administration, are putting in place policies that will vastly enrich the lords of Silicon Valley as well as the Hollywood starlets, hedge fund managers and other manipulators of great wealth, the very folks that Bannon and California Republicans seem to hate so much.

The crown jewel of the Trump policy is the tax reform bill currently being written in secret in Washington.  According to the Tax Policy Center, the changes under consideration, such as collapsing the seven current individual tax brackets into three brackets and the massive corporate tax break, will hugely benefit the richest Americans.  “The top one percent of earners would receive about 80 percent of the tax benefit. This income group would see its after-tax income increase 8.5 percent, whereas the bottom 95 percent of earners would see an average 1.2 percent increase in their after-tax income.”

There is some blowback against giving quite so much of the tax benefit to the wealthiest taxpayers; House Speaker Paul Ryan is talking about a fourth tax bracket at the top, but we’ll see if that really happens.  More likely is that the Republican establishment in Washington is going to take good care of the wealthy liberal groups Bannon disdains so much: the corporatists, globalists and lords of Silicon Valley (and of course Hollywood) who fund the national Democratic Party from their elitist perches here in California.

And of course not one penny of these tax breaks will become donations to the California Republican Party.  By joining with Bannon’s reign of terror on the GOP establishment, it tells its own donors to go elsewhere with their money.  And they will.  Trump’s tax plan will enrich the enemies of California Republicans, while the party’s own antics will just further contribute to its agony of irrelevance.

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