Steve Bannon, former White House advisor and CEO of Breitbart News, descended on Alabama once again on Tuesday to stump for Roy Moore. Appearing at a rally in Fairhope, Bannon Romney for his lack of military service saying, "You hid behind your religion. You went to France to be a missionary while men were dying in Vietnam. Do not talk about honor and integrity." He then had some choice words for Romney’s family. "You ran for commander in chief and had five sons — not one day of service in Afghanistan or Iraq. We have 7,000 dead and 52,000 casualties, and where were the Romneys during those wars?" The remarks elicited cheers from the crowd, despite the fact that President Trump received five draft deferments from Vietnam and that not one of his sons has ever served in the military.
Bannon is an economic nationalist and populist. He has a bizarre background: he served in the military, has an MBA from Harvard, produced films in Hollywood, was a partner at Goldman Sachs, and Chairman of Breitbart News. He served as CEO for the Trump campaign and then then briefly as Chief White House Strategist. He deserves much of the credit for connecting Trump with marginalized voters in the Republican party. Bannon is disillusioned with the Republican establishment, and is recruiting candidates to challenge incumbent Republicans in the House and Senate that he deems insufficiently supportive of the Trump Agenda. But ironically, his first success came where he backed Roy Moore over Luther Strange, the establishment candidate who was supported by President Trump
Another Bannon target is Mitch McConnell, the leader of the establishment wing that Bannon intends to destroy. McConnell is hated among many Trumpians for his weak leadership and inability to unite the party. McConnell recently launching an all-out offensive against Bannon. Not shying away from a fight, the battered majority leader has accused Bannon of anti-Semitism and posing a significant threat to the party, while his Super-PAC has spent millions of dollars fighting against Bannon-backed candidates.
Bannon has succeeded in exacerbating underlying tensions in our polity: there is little civility, cordiality, or meaningful debates over substance. In Love in the Ruins (1971), Walker Percy's futuristic novel about the failure of the American Experiment, the author prophesied: “The center did not hold. However, the Gross National Product continues to rise. There are Left states and Knothead [Right] states, Left towns and Knothead towns but no center towns … Left networks and Knothead networks, Left movies and Knothead movies.” This seems an apt description of our current, unfortunate predicament.
This article was co-written by Daniel Bruce, Chris Reid, and Professor Jack Nelson.