Steve Bannon is still in the midst of his precipitous descent from influence, and he’s managing to hit every branch on his way down. The latest news is that Rebekah Mercer — billionaire backer of both Trump and Bannon, and stakeholder in Breitbart News — has cut ties with the former White House chief strategist over this week’s clash with President Trump.
This comes as a huge blow to Bannon, who has said publicly that, if he were ever to run for president, he would rely on the financial support of the Mercer family. Losing them — and, with them, other key Republican contributors — does serious damage to Bannon’s credibility, as well as to his capacity to continue shaping the future of the party.
This last point, in particular, is worth highlighting. Despite losing his position in the White House several months ago, Bannon has retained his status as an outsized influence within the GOP. He has promised to continue using his platform at Breitbart and his sway on the hard-right to back political candidates who fall in line with his “burn it down” vision for the future of the party.
Bannon has vowed repeatedly that, in the 2018 elections, he will find and support primary challengers against GOP senators whom he believes are insufficiently “conservative.” Indeed, he has gladly done so in the past — in 2016, when he backed Paul Nehlen’s hilariously impotent attempt to oust Paul Ryan from his congressional seat in Wisconsin’s first district; and last year, when he threw his weight behind the Senate candidacy of Alabama Republican Roy Moore, even as the former judge imploded and ended up handing the seat to a Democrat.
With the loss of the Mercers — and buzz in the air that he might even lose his post as chairman of Breitbart – Bannon’s ability to influence the 2018 elections is severely hampered. This is a positive development for those within the Republican party who hope to see a more measured, thoughtful brand of conservative politics than the intensely populist, nationalist, and even alt-right rhetoric that Bannon and his website regularly serve up.
Without Bannon in the mix to prop up half-baked Republican candidates — who, given his track record, would likely fall one by one to Democratic challengers — the odds of the GOP holding on to the Senate this November have surely increased.