Che Guevara’s father said of his son, “In my son’s blood flowed the blood of Irish rebels.” Perhaps Steve Bannon, the son of an Irish Catholic family, has a similar emotional core. Anyone want a Steve Bannon T-shirt?
Guevara, the Argentine revolutionary who is said to have been the intellectual energy behind Fidel Castro’s revolution in Cuba, has had his experiment — 50 years’ worth. Guevara’s thoughts, animated by Castro’s leadership, impoverished the island.
Bannon with his initial proxy, Donald Trump, will have a similar effect on the Republican Party.
Today, the ideological battle plays out on the East side of the congressional grounds as the United States Senate plays its role as a legislative bottleneck. This drama pits Bannon against the Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, who is short on assets.
Bannon is colorful; McConnell is dull. Bannon is strategic; McConnell is tactical. And so history once again plays out through personalities.
Bannon has created an interesting new engine — it makes rip tides, cross-currents that tear apart. McConnell, being from a non-tidal state, Kentucky, fails to understand the power of tides. He bobs around in an unnatural state — a relentless ebb tide. And so goes the Republican Party. Its putative leader, Trump, being a transactional politician, only wants wins — bills presented to him for signature, or alternatively, executive orders.
Today’s dynamic will ebb and flow. Bannon’s brigade will attack almost anybody who is an elected Republican, although many of the Bannon proxies are losers. McConnell, who is in a leadership position, has been given an even higher profile by a President who periodically trashes him and key members of the Republican majority in the Senate. Why build, the President must think, when demolition feels so good? Having demolished the establishment in the Party, it would seem to be a good time to build, but Trump, who can build hotels, has no philosophical core that might serve as a foundation.
In the meantime, Republicans, who continue to think, have actively begun floating the possibility of a third party. Hooray, because the Democrat Party of Bill Clinton ceased to exist a long time ago and for most right-of-center voters is not an option. Centrism is a half continent away from the leftist takeover and coastal dominance.
Bill Kristol, who has impeccable Republican and Never-Trump credentials (yes that is possible) recently floated four pairings of candidates for President and Vice-President in 2020. The two that received the most votes in a Twitter poll paired Republican John Kasich and Democrat John Hickenlooper, Governors of Ohio and Colorado. Coming in second in the poll were Mark Cuban, the owner of lots of assets and a reality TV show role along with Nikki Haley, the United Nation Ambassador, as his running mate. The names and standings are less interesting than the fact there is active discussion about other than fringe candidates.
Poll after poll for decades has shown the decline of the Democrat and Republican parties. And as the leaders of each party have increasingly been scripted by their left and right movements, the decline, if anything, has steepened. Polls regularly show that most people are most comfortable around the center. Yet, it seems that the passion that stirred Guevara’s blood and now seems to stir Bannon finds its source in the latest revolution against the latest establishment, with compromise being especially detestable.
The United States was born of revolution. The founders then designed a profound framework to avoid the pathology of most revolutions — tyranny. I would suggest the next revolutionary needs to come from the center where the limits of humankind are understood.
While I am in the unsolicited advice business, let me also suggest to whomever might want to try and revive the Republican Party, a governing core. Only party leadership that embraces Lincoln’s passion for equality and union and that can, in the 21st Century, translate Theodore Roosevelt’s insistent battle against concentrated power, and give voice to Reagan’s optimism about freedom, have a chance. The rhetorical and public policy blend that captures their contribution to the party, articulated with understanding and passion, will be enormously persuasive. The pinched and often harsh public policy and rhetoric that thrives on division is both anti-Republican and anti-American.
America’s greatness does not come from a large, central government with its inevitable appetite for human engineering. Greatness also will not be sustained by the power of a wealthy oligarchy using its wealth to manipulate the levers of authority. We need a better way as a movement, not a slogan.
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore
Al Sikes’ leadership helped shape the arc of 21st century communication technologies from positions as Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and then President of Hearst New Media. In 2004, the Manhattan Institute chose Sikes as one of eight winners of the Social Entrepreneurship Award for having founded READ ALLIANCE, which trains teenagers to tutor children with reading deficiencies. Sikes second book, Culture Leads Leaders Follow was recently published by Koehler Books.