Who’s taking a bigger hit than Moore? Former President Donald Trump’s Senior Advisor and Executive Chairman of Breitbart News, Steve Bannon. Susana Victoria Perez (@susana_vp) has more.
He’s not an architect. He’s a wrecking ball. He’s not going to build a political party from the ground up, he wants to demolish it from the top down.
Campaigns are a lot like sports. There are winners and losers. Playmakers and MVP’s. Credit and blame. Monday morning quarterbacking and upsets.
When someone wins who shouldn’t, we have a tendency to seek out and elevate a figure to assign the glory.
Bill Clinton’s victories gave us James Carville and Paul Begala. George W. Bush gave us Karl Rove and Ari Fleischer. Barack Obama gave us David Axelrod and David Plouffe. On Tuesday night, Doug Jones made a point to give a shout-out to Joe Trippi. And when Donald Trump won the presidency, Steve Bannon was perfectly situated to be assigned the same glory status.
He was the last man standing in a volatile campaign that saw an unusual amount of turnover in key positions. Imagine changing your head coach multiple times in a season and somehow winning the Super Bowl.
Trump’s undisciplined, bombastic and showman-like approach to politics seemed to lend credence to the caricature of Bannon as the brains behind Trump. The fact that Bannon was a virtual unknown in the political consulting class added to his mystique. He became the subject of an endless stream of profiles, made the cover of TIME and got co-billing in a high profile book about the successful campaign. All of which annoyed Trump and paved the way for him to lose his position as chief White House strategist.
It was during his White House tenure that cracks in the Bannon myth began to show. The first six months of the Trump presidency, a time when he should have had the most political capital, were short on achievements and long on policy setbacks. This isn’t to say that this was solely Bannon’s fault, but one would think that a brilliant “chief strategist” would be able to choreograph a few wins and in the process cement his status as the brilliant brain behind Trump.
Instead, Bannon spent his time over-reaching (remember his unusual seat on the National Security Council?) and fighting with congressional leaders, Trump’s son-in-law and other high profile members of the administration.
Bannon didn’t make it through the summer before he was jettisoned, left to return to his Breitbart News sandbox.
In many ways, I thought that would give him a second lease on life. I worked with Steve for the better part of two years, as a spokesman for Breitbart, and have come to realize in retrospect that much like Trump, he wasn’t built to serve at the pleasure of anyone else. He doesn’t play well with others nor does he want to. At Breitbart, he can surround himself with sycophants who reinforce his worst instincts (sounds like someone else we know).
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Free of the politics of the West Wing and governing, Bannon resumed his core mission: destroying the Washington establishment and blowing things up.
And that’s the reality of Bannon. He’s not an architect. He’s a wrecking ball. He’s not going to build a political party from the ground up, he wants to demolish a political party from the top down.
Bannon’s approach isn’t strategically in-depth, it’s transparently blunt. Controversy, chaos and confusion are his tools of choice. He preys on the ignorant, weak and worst among us to convert and unleash in the same way that al-Qaeda or ISIS operates.
There is no question that Doug Jones’ upset victory over Roy Moore can be laid at the feet of Steve Bannon and Donald Trump.
However, much like al-Qaeda, Bannon will not be deterred by defeat. He will look for another opportunity to demonstrate strength. He will try and preserve his position of influence with Trump by catering to his worst instincts and to cast Roy Moore in the sympathetic light of a victim of the “fake news” media — an argument that may resonate with Trump. As the Russia investigation bears down on Trump, he will grow even more unpredictable and desperate, qualities that Bannon preys on.
Whether Bannon gets a third or fourth act really depends on Trump and the Republican Party.
Bannon’s ascension was enabled in part by the weakness of Republicans in Congress. With few exceptions (notably Sens. Jeff Flake, Ben Sasse, Cory Gardner and Richard Shelby), they stayed silent and hid from Roy Moore. After he defeated Luther Strange in the primary and well before The Washington Post revealed credible allegations of sexual misconduct against him, most in the GOP endorsed Moore. They knowingly supported someone who had a long history making racist, homophobic, xenophobic and sexist remarks. It’s the embrace of these dangerous and backward attitudes that has left the Republican Party morally bankrupt and vulnerable to Bannon’s brand of toxicity.
Bannon is a cancer that has infected the entire GOP team. He may be benign right now, but over time he can spread and become terminal.
Republicans will never be rid of the Bannon types until they take a permanent stand against the ideology of hate and divisiveness that he represents.
Racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia should all be disqualifying characteristics for anyone seeking public office — regardless of political party.
Kurt Bardella is a former spokesperson for Reps. Brian Bilbray, R-Calif., Darrell Issa, R-Calif., Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter: @kurtbardella.
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