Stephen Bannon, the former White House and Donald Trump campaign advisor, runs a website that caters to white supremacists, spreads antisemitism, and eviscerates fellow Republicans who cross him. He has such extremist views about Islam that he was ousted by the US’s top security official. He has accused women who claim they were sexually assaulted of lying, mocked the president’s daughter Ivanka for criticizing child molesters, and been himself accused of domestic violence.
But until last night, the Republican party was not ready to cast Bannon overboard.
Then Doug Jones became the first Democrat to win a Senate seat in Alabama in 25 years. He beat Roy Moore, a politician that Bannon had avidly supported. Now, after their loss, a handful of Republican politicians are finally turning their backs on Trump’s one-time Rasputin.
Bannon “does not belong on the American political scene,” Pete King, the Republican representative from New York told CNN this morning. He “looks like some disheveled drunk who wandered onto the national stage,” he said. Alabama wasn’t just a political statement, he said, “it was a revulsion by people of his style and his political views.”
Bannon is “the most effective Democratic Party strategist since James Carville,” joked Frank Luntz, a GOP pollster.
“I’d just like to thank Steve Bannon for showing us how to lose the reddest state in the union,” said Josh Holmes, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell’s former chief of staff and campaign manager.
Bannon suffers from “suffers from MDS (McConnell Derangement Syndrome),” conservative writer Roger L. Simon wrote. Instead of supporting Trump’s initial pick for Alabama senate, Luther Strange, Bannon “stomped around Alabama convincing anyone he could find that Strange was a shill for McConnell…the result has been a hugely embarrassing and pointless defeat,” he wrote.
Short-lived White House press secretary Anthony Scaramucci said Tuesday’s election was a “a good day for America yesterday in the sense that Bannon lost.” (To be fair, Scaramucci had previously accused Bannon of self-fellatio, so that’s not a huge change in position.)
Bannon has “pulled off the equivalent of screwing up a one-car funeral — gotten a Democrat elected to the U.S. Senate in Ala-by-God-bama of all things,” wrote Geoff Pender, the political editor for Mississippi’s Clarion Ledger. (Pender’s political affiliation is not stated).
And Meghan McCain, daughter of the Republican senator from Arizona, had a succinct message:
Well before Tuesday’s vote in Alabama, there were Republicans warning that Bannon, and his financial backers Rebekah Mercer and her father Robert, were supporting extremist candidates in state races who could tear the party apart. (They weren’t always willing to go on the record, though.)
“If the party nominates the slate of candidates that the Mercers are backing, [Democratic Senator Chuck] Schumer will be the Senate majority leader, and [Democratic representative] Nancy Pelosi will be the speaker of the House” in 2018, a Republican strategist and donor told Quartz, even before Moore was accused by several women of sexually assaulting them when they were teens and he was in his 30s.
Bannon’s attempt to prop up Moore’s campaign included persuading Fox News personality Sean Hannity to continue to support Moore, Bloomberg reported. Some in the party saw his involvement as opportunism.
“There are some people who see a parade marching down a street, and say ‘By God, that group needs a leader!’ and then jump out in front of it,” Constantin Querard, a GOP strategist and founder of Grassroots Partners told Quartz last month. Bannon may have “jumped on board” the Roy Moore bandwagon, he said, but the idea that “Moore is a Bannon guy” is false.
“Roy Moore was Roy Moore years before Bannon became a national figure.” Querard said. “So really, Bannon is a Roy Moore guy—that’s a better way to look at it.”
No matter which way you view it, however, both men lost on Tuesday.