Donald TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger welcomes baby boy Tennessee lawmaker presents self-defense bill in 'honor' of Kyle Rittenhouse Five things to know about the New York AG's pursuit of Trump MORE is still the president, and Ronna McDaniel continues to hold the title of chair of the Republican National Committee. But after Roy Moore’s win in Alabama’s Republican runoff primary, it is Steve Bannon who will be calling the shots for the GOP.
And why not? It was Bannon who drove Moore’s campaign to victory, with a dead-on take of Republican Party’s soul, namely that it is a congregation of unruly dissenters that won’t bend the knee to anyone, but one that will stick it to the man whenever it can.
For the uninitiated, Moore is an ex-Alabama Supreme Court justice and former kickboxer, who openly opines that God’s will trumps the U.S. Constitution and that 9/11 was divine retribution. He also has no problem in describing Native Americans and Asian Americans as though they belong on a color chart, as reds and yellows.
Already, Trump and the GOP are showing Bannon that respect that he has earned. Trump may have forced Bannon out of the White House, and in hindsight even sought to diminish Bannon’s role in Trump’s come-from-behind general election win, but not anymore. These days, it is Trump who doffs his hat to Bannon.
On Monday night, the eve of the Alabama runoff, Trump held a dinner with conservative figures, where he mocked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocrats make final plea for voting rights ahead of filibuster showdown Mellman: Voting rights or the filibuster? Budowsky: To Dems: Run against the do-nothing GOP, Senate MORE (R-Ky.) and John McCainJohn Sidney McCainRedistricting reform key to achieving the bipartisanship Americans claim to want Kelly takes under-the-radar approach in Arizona Senate race Voting rights, Trump's Big Lie, and Republicans' problem with minorities MORE (R-Ariz.), and also lamented his own support for Luther StrangeLuther Johnson StrangePress: For Trump endorsement: The more sordid, the better Pandemic proves importance of pharmaceutical innovation The Hill's Morning Report - Biden assails 'epidemic' of gun violence amid SC, Texas shootings MORE, the incumbent senator from Alabama who lost to Moore.
Fast forward just 24 hours later. Within moments of Moore’s win, Trump deleted his tweets in which he endorsed and touted Strange, including a tweet in which Trump claimed that Strange was surging on account of Trump’s endorsement. In the end, it wasn’t even close. Moore won by nearly 10 points, a landslide.
Significantly, Trump was not alone in viewing the Republican Party as the natural extension of Bannon’s identity. While Alabama Republicans were busy voting, Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerRepublicans, ideology, and demise of the state and local tax deduction Cheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force MORE (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was letting everyone know that he would not be seeking a third term.
Make no mistake, fear of a Bannon-backed primary challenge helped induce Corker’s retirement. Earlier this month, Bannon declared that several Senate seats held by Republican incumbents, including Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeCruz to get Nord Stream 2 vote as part of deal on Biden nominees Democrats threaten to play hardball over Cruz's blockade Rubio vows to slow-walk Biden's China, Spain ambassador nominees MORE (R-Ariz.) and Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerSeven most vulnerable governors facing reelection in 2022 Nevada becomes early Senate battleground Nevada governor Sisolak injured in car accident, released from hospital MORE (R-Nev.), stood in his crosshairs. True to his word, Flake and Heller are now facing from candidates who have Bannon’s support.
At Moore’s election night celebration, Bannon spiked the ball in the end zone and jabbed at the already deflated Corker, saying, “We talked about starting a revolution with Judge Moore’s victory. Well, Sen. Corker stepped down today, he’s not going to run for re-election.”
That Corker chaired an august Senate committee was of no moment to Bannon. The fact that Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior advisor, counted Corker among his friends, did not spare Corker from Bannon’s wrath. Indeed, it was Kushner, among others, who had urged Trump to throw his weight behind Strange’s doomed re-election effort. Heck, just because Kushner had married the boss’s daughter did not make him a genius.
Bannon’s takeover of the GOP is bolstered by the reality that he also comes with a ready-made campaign infrastructure of money and machinery. When Bannon joined Trump’s campaign in 2016, he was already partners with Robert Mercer, the deep-pocketed Republican donor who bring his own portable campaign apparatus. Together, Mercer and Bannon hold interests in Breitbart and Cambridge Analytica.
More than nine months into his presidency, Trump has failed to show any interest or ability in governing or legislating, at least not in a traditional sense. As Trump himself has acknowledged, his use of social media is not presidential, but rather “modern day” presidential, apparently conflating modernity with chaos in the process. Having reached this point by feeding his base, Trump has no easy way out. He must now ride the tiger wherever it takes him. And who better than Bannon as his wingman on this mission.
As Bannon framed things Tuesday night, “You are going to see in state, after state, after state, people that follow the model of Judge Moore, that do not have to raise money from the elites, the crony capitalists, from the fat cats in Washington D.C., New York City and Silicon Valley.” America and the Republican Party have been warned.
Lloyd Green was the opposition research counsel to the George H.W. Bush campaign in 1988 and later served in the U.S. Department of Justice.