‘Are we at war?’ Bannon exhorts TPUSA’s ‘awakened army’ to ‘take this to its ultimate conclusion’

‘Are we at war?’ Bannon exhorts TPUSA’s ‘awakened army’ to ‘take this to its ultimate conclusion’

If you had any thought that the insurrection that we all saw unfold on Jan. 6 might have just been a one-day affair—rather than the ongoing attack on American democracy that it in fact has become—you just needed to see Steve Bannon wrapping up this week’s eliminationism-themed “America Fest 2022” put on by Charlie Kirk’s Turning Point USA outfit in Phoenix.

Bannon’s speech was like the exhortations of a cheerleading executive, except for the subject. “Are we at war?” he demanded to know at the outset. After a feeble “Yes” from the audience, he repeated: “No! I wanna hear it! Are we at war?” “Yes!!!” the audience shouted. “Are you prepared to take this to its ultimate conclusion and destroy the deep state?” he demanded. “Yes!!!!” they replied. “Root and branch?” “Yeahhh!!!”

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“This is what they fear,” Bannon said. “They fear not just an electorate that is informed, but an electorate that says, ‘No longer are we just going to sit there and take it!'”

“You are an awakened army!” he bellowed. The crowd cheered.

Bannon anticipated how his exhortations would be reported. “Now what they’re going to sit there and say is, ‘Oh, he’s getting them all worked, right? Getting them all worked up out there in Arizona’,” he said, but nonetheless seemingly acknowledged that this kind of rhetoric historically inflames and inspires violence. “No. We’re tougher, smarter, and we gotta be more cunning than they are. They’re gonna try to bait you into everything. You have to be smarter than that, right?” He notably also didn’t condemn violent actions.

“From this day forward, it’s no more talk, it’s just action, action, action!” he proclaimed.

When someone in the audience shouted, “Lock them up!” Bannon pointed and nodded. “Lock ‘em up. Lock ’em up!” he agreed. “Lock ‘em up and throw—” He held out the mic as the crowd chanted, “Lock them up!” then added: “And throw away the frickin’ key!”

Bannon claimed that “they” stole both Trump’s presidency by keeping him under a constant onslaught, and then his re-election. “Is there anybody in this audience that thinks Donald John Trump did not win the 2020 election?” “Noooo!!!” they shouted back.

“Trump won! You’re damn right he won, and Trump won big,” Bannon insisted. “Impeaching Joe Biden’s too good for him! Then we gotta bring the criminal charges and send him to prison for treason and selling out this country!”

Bannon ranted that Hunter Biden’s laptop proved that “it was an open coup—by [FBI director Christopher] Wray, and [Attorney General William] Barr, and the DHS, CIA, and the people that worked for them. And we—all politics is performative, until we get the investigations and get to the bottom of every name—the 51 intelligence officers and everybody else that sold this country out! All these traitors must go to prison!” He repeated: “All traitors must go to prison!”

At the speech’s conclusion, he wrapped his audience together:

Are you a cadré now? Are you a vanguard? Are you a tip of a new revolutionary generation that’s gonna save this country? Are you sure about that? [Yeah!] Is your task and purpose every day to take your country back? [Yeah!] Are there any days off? [No!] God bless you. There’s no substitute for victory.

Bannon, of course, was a central player in the insurrection in the first place. Even though he was no longer an official White House adviser, Trump consulted him regularly, and Bannon constantly urged him to keep fighting even after he had lost. That’s how he knew, on Jan. 5, what was going to happen, and why he told his audience that day:

All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. It’s all converging, and now we’re on, as they say, the point of attack. … I’ll tell you this: It’s not going to happen like you think it’s going to happen. It’s going to be quite extraordinarily different, and all I can say is strap in.

He’s also one of the first non-combatants to be convicted of a crime related to the insurrection: Bannon was convicted this summer of failing to respond to the Jan. 6 committee’s subpoena, and sentenced in October to serve four months in prison—though he won’t begin serving until his appeal his settled.

The day he walked into court for his sentencing, he told reporters: “This illegitimate regime, their judgment day is on 8 November when the Biden administration ends.”

That prediction obviously didn’t work out so well for Bannon, who played a major role in whipping up election denialism both before and after the election. When he invited Kari Lake onto his podcast to discuss the Arizona governor’s race she had just lost, they both were rock-solid certain she would still emerge victorious.

As Tim Miller explored in detail at The Bulwark, keeping the insurrectionist army intact and enraged has largely been Bannon’s mission since Jan. 6. His podcast, “Pandemic War Room with Steve Bannon,” has been nothing but a constant platform for right-wing conspiracists and extremists of all stripes, from anti-vax hatemongers to election denialists to European white nationalists. The ongoing message: Be proud of what happened on Jan. 6. Work to make it happen again.

Miller explains that “their effort to overthrow the government has been undeterred by the initial setback of Joe Biden being inaugurated. While Republican elites try to minimize the events of Jan. 6th, the War Room and their minions have continued to take the coup both literally and seriously. In their view the Biden ‘regime’ is illegitimate, and the regime’s medical establishment has covered up nearly a half a million deaths from the COVID ‘vaccines.’”

This is why Congressman Jamie Raskin, the Jan. 6 committee’s chief overseer, emphasized that the committee’s report would elucidate “the clear and continuing present danger of the forces that have been unleashed against us.”

Raskin warned: “The political scientists tell us that the signs of an authoritarian political party are this: 1) they don’t accept the results of democratic elections if they don’t go their way; 2) they embrace political violence or refuse to disavow it […]; and 3) they are organized around a charismatic or allegedly charismatic political figure.”

Indeed, the committee’s final report notes that federal Circuit Judge Michael Luttig reached similar conclusions during his live hearing testimony: “I have written, as you said, Chairman Thompson, that, today, almost 2 years after that fateful day in January 2021, that, still, Donald Trump and his allies and supporters are a clear and present danger to American democracy.”

The report also observes: “If President Trump and the associates who assisted him in an effort to overturn the lawful outcome of the 2020 election are not ultimately held accountable under the law, their behavior may become a precedent and invitation to danger for future elections.”

Obviously, Bannon readily qualifies as one of those associates—and keeping Trump’s army of insurrectionists alive and seething is almost certainly his best hope of avoiding prison time beyond the four months he’s already scheduled for. It’s why he constantly feeds the MAGA mob the steady diet of red pills to which they are now addicted.

Stanford cyber-security professor Herbert Lin sees what people like Bannon are doing—namely, creating a massive epistemic crisis not just for America but for the world—as the chief obstacle to defending democracy from the insurrectionist onslaught:

We now live in an environment in which no conceivable evidence can persuade true believers to change their minds, and the resulting epistemic fractures translate into a once-unified nation sharply divided against itself.  A worse national posture to meet the challenges of coming great-power competition could not be imagined.

As Miller put it:

Last year the faithful acted.

Today they are marshaling their forces and gathering their strength to do so again.

They’ll only succeed, of course, if we keep our eyes closed to the continuing threat and fail to be prepared. Because as far as they’re concerned, they are “at war.” Only a fool would disbelieve them.

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