How Should the California Republican Party Respond to Steve Bannon

Todd Royal
Todd Royal is an independent public policy consultant focusing on the geopolitical implications of energy based in Los Angeles, California.

California doesn’t have any easy races for Republicans to win. So the question becomes: is it better to have a Representative who somewhat votes Republican or to be a purist? The challenge as presented by Steve Bannon’s fiery, populist speech at the recent California Republican Party (CPR) convention should give pause to Republicans across California.

Bannon’s arguments play out against a roiled political landscape.

With fanfare lauded by media outlets like CNN and The National Review Republican Senators Jeff Flake and Bob Corker both announced they won’t seek re-election. What these media concerns failed to illustrate was both Senators would’ve lost their respective Republican primaries, but why? Each has consistently voted with Trump on policy issues – even the “skinny repeal,” but Bannon targeted them and other Republicans for defeat when he recently said in an interview: “The days of establishment Republicans who oppose the people’s ‘America First,’ agenda are numbered.”

Bannon wants to take the fight to Democrats and Republicans who work with them. But somehow the CRP has to reach the very voters Bannon wants to crush while protecting the party and President Trump. The CRP has to reach out to Democrats and Independents who lean Democrat by focusing on how California Republicans can work with the Democratic Party that helped win the Cold War and helped establish the deep-lasting ramifications the post-War War II order put in place. This becomes increasingly difficult as Bannon takes the fight to Democrats and incumbent Republican alike. This leaves the CRP in a quandary that Bannon needs to help them solve if he keeps attacking Republican lawmakers.

But this “rift,” in the Republican Party that engulfs the CRP comes across as an exercise in narcissism. Problems are reduced to riling up crowds, and intelligent, thoughtful policymakers are relegated to the sidelines. Bannon also has to answer for his isolationist rhetoric versus Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s argument that the world needs America to be the policeman; otherwise China, Russia and Iran will fill that void.

Bannon hasn’t addressed that issue though the deeply respected David P. Goldman, Spengler, wrote a glowing piece for Asia Times about Bannon’s worldview, strategic insights and complete understanding over what is causing America and the West’s decline. If that’s the case then Bannon should work on those issues with the CRP and take on California and America’s staggering debt that has become an economic-shibboleth. With California schools and infrastructure in abysmal shape and our debt exploding, Bannon could help shape a message that brings California Republicans back to the forefront.

Still, Bannon can’t be dismissed when he asserts that when Corker and Flake fight Trump on the way out of office there motivation doesn’t seem to be country or party first –instead of explaining how their actions help America overcome the greatest geopolitical challenges facing the country and California since the beginning of WWII. These challenges and Bannon fighting them have relevance since California is being targeted by North Korea’s nuclear arsenal.

What the CRP needs to be fully aware of though are the risks associated with taking Bannon’s influence and elevating it to party kingmaker. In 2010 the Republican activist wing of the party nominated candidates for seats in Nevada and Delaware (conservative, Tea-Party nominees) and lost to liberal Democrats that it can be argued weakened America through defense sequestration, the Affordable Care Act tax platform and having a poor understanding about what would rise (ISIS) to fill the void by leaving Iraq.

This activist wing, which Bannon now leads, has to answer for these decisions. The CRP should focus on helping to maintain Republican’s slim majority in the US Senate, reversing the Democratic super majority in the California Assembly and building a ground game that includes higher Republican voter registration and walking door-to-door with candidates in 2018. This becomes harder with incumbents leaving because of Bannon’s influence.

If Bannon wanted to take Senator Corker to task it should’ve been over his Iran nuclear deal vote, and what were his reasons for aiding the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism. Those are issues to take someone like Corker to task over instead of escalating petty feuds that engulf California Republicans at all levels.

Now that skirmishes are moving into open political, intraparty warfare, new questions are raised about whether the Republican majority can repeal the Affordable Care Act, rebuild the military and pass sweeping tax reform by rewriting the code. Any of these issues could consume Congress for its term, but Bannon and the activists are destroying hopes for delivering policies that can grow the economy, deliver billions back to many Americans and ensure that another Syria doesn’t happen under Trump’s watch. The Republican Congress is consistently dropping the ball internationally and domestically. It doesn’t need more fuel added to their fire when it is obvious they weren’t ready to govern. Bannon has that part correct but it also backs the CRP into a political corner that is hard to recover from by 2018.

The CRP should tread with caution in its dealings with Bannon and when seats can be won that should be the top priority, but this back and forth is bad for the CRP, bad for the Republican Party and bad for the US in general. Anger, resentment and visceral hatred should be reserved for policies that destroy the country. That is why Republicans got elected – to reverse the last eight years – otherwise our enemies around the world are watching this fiasco and contemplating when they can strike America and California. Mr. Bannon, I hope you are listening and adjusting your political warfare accordingly.

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