Bannon warns GOP fight for country far from over
It was the best of times and the worst of times in Macomb County, Michigan, home base of the working-class "Reagan Democrats" who helped deliver the president his stunning victory one year ago.
Breitbart News executive chairman and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon celebrated the victory in a speech to Republican Party leaders in one of the key Midwest states in Trump's coalition.
However, the symbolic head of the party's nationalist wing also alluded to the GOP's losses in Virginia and New Jersey earlier this week.
Bannon received an enthusiastic reception at the Macomb County GOP Lincoln/Reagan Unity Dinner, a yearly gathering of party stalwarts that formed an ironic backdrop for Bannon's attack on the "establishment."
Most of Bannon's talk was a nostalgic look back at Trump's election victory on Nov. 8, 2016, which Bannon called "the high holy day of MAGA."
Bannon praised Trump as the "finest candidate to run for the presidency since Ronald Reagan," who "understood at a very deep level the problems of the country."
He also claimed Trump won because the GOP candidate represented change, in contrast to Hillary Clinton, who stood for "exactly the way things are."
The mention of Hillary Clinton prompted chants of "Lock her up!" Bannon joked he knew a Trump rally was going to break out and said "Build the wall!" chants would soon follow.
Bannon identified his backdrop of Macomb County, a working-class area just outside Detroit, as critical to Trump's victory, which he claimed "saved the country."
He said working-class communities are being "hollowed out" because of a parasitic elite that is outsourcing jobs to China. Bannon also credited Trump's victory to Americans' anger that country "was being destroyed economically, culturally and militarily."
Bannon urged his audience to remember there would be good days and bad days. Echoing comments he made at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February, Bannon said Trump supporters would have to fight to get their country back, because it would not simply be given back.
Several dozen protesters were outside the hall. Security was heavy at the event, with numerous police posted both inside and outside the venue. Some protesters carried signs from 'Refuse Fascism," a front group for the Revolutionary Communist Party. Numerous attendees also expressed their concern about "antifa" infiltrating the event, though there were no disturbances.
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The former White House chief strategist identified three key points for the Trump agenda he credited with giving the president his victory.
- "Stop mass illegal immigration and deal with legal immigration to get our sovereignty back."
- "Bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States."
- "And we have to bring an end to pointless foreign wars."
The head of Breitbart News also poked fun at the journalists who had doubted Trump could win, including the local Detroit Free Press. He noted the paper had initially called Michigan for Hillary Clinton and didn't officially call the state for Trump until weeks after the election.
His jibes prompted laughter among the several hundred Republicans, many of whom grinned and pointed at the Free Press reporters in the room.
But it wasn't all laughs. The specter of Ed Gillespie's defeat in the Virginia governor's race hung over the gathering, as the GOP candidate was defeated by a larger margin on Tuesday than many people had predicted. His defeat, as well as GOP losses in the Virginia legislature and the New Jersey governorship, has been widely interpreted by Trump critics as a rebuke of the president.
Bannon said it wasn't complicated: Republicans need to stand by Trump, arguing candidates can't "fake" the Trump agenda.
Trump himself criticized Gillespie for not aligning more closely with his successful 2016 campaign.
"You have to go all in," Bannon said, implying Gillespie failed to do this.
However, Bannon also referred to Virginia as a "blue state," hinting it is no longer in play for Republicans.
While Bannon was full of praise for Trump, he heaped scorn on the congressional leadership in Washington, blaming Trump's defeats on Obamacare and other issues on the inability of the "Republican establishment" to "execute the plan."
He also described "the swamp" of Washington politics as a "lethal, lethal system" that can utterly destroy people.
Though much of his criticism was directed against Republicans, the party members at the Lincoln-Reagan dinner cheered their keynote speaker. There was also no sign of opposition or even dissent to Trump or his agenda.
"If you think you are going to be successful in 2018 by separating yourself from our president, it's not going to happen," said Tom Leonard, the speaker of the Michigan House.
He urged the attendees to push the Trump agenda. Speaker after speaker also referred to the Trump campaign's massive rallies in Michigan, slamming the liberal media for missing the story.GOP Sellout, Establishment, Steve Bannon, Federalist Society, Nationalist, Macomb County Michigan, Regan Democrats