Will Roy Moore Doom Bannon’s Populist Insurgency? (Vanity Fair)

Will Roy Moore Doom Bannon’s Populist Insurgency?

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Bannon photographed at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center while discussing extremism on October 23rd.

By Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

In his quest to topple the G.O.P. establishment, Steve Bannon is effectively seeking an answer to the question that emerged at the forefront of U.S. politics after Hillary Clinton’s unexpected upset last November: can Trumpism exist without Donald Trump? But in devising a populist insurgency that transcends the president, the former White House chief strategist faces a slew of obstacles, the most perilous of which has manifested in the deluge of allegations now facing Roy Moore, the Bannon-backed Republican who won the hotly contested primary for Jeff Sessions’s vacated Senate seat. In Moore, Bannon found the perfect Trump replica: a firebrand social conservative with deeply held beliefs and a penchant for riling up “the base.” But as yesterday’s revelations demonstrate, tapping more Trumps—volatile, polarizing candidates with patchy backgrounds—could be a major drawback in the context of Washington.

In an interview with The New York Times on Wednesday, Bannon shed light on his strategy, contrasting Republican Ed Gillespie’s defeat in the Virginia gubernatorial race on Tuesday with Moore’s success in the Alabama primary. “I do believe that . . . Gillespie was a little halfhearted. It wasn’t embracing the core parts of the Trump agenda and driving and making it every day,” he said. Moore, on the other hand, checked all Bannon’s boxes for an ideal insurgent candidate: he embraced Trump’s politically incorrect, anti-globalist message in a way that felt original to him and authentic to voters, arguing, among other things, that Muslims should not be allowed to serve in public office, and that homosexuality ought to be illegal. Moore, Bannon said, was effective because he mobilized “25 of these grassroots organizations that really haven’t had a voice,” who hailed “from everywhere, from these kind of populous things to these economic nationalists to the Tea Party movement to religious right . . . you saw them come together.”

By Scott Olson/Getty Images.

Here, Bannon sees Trumpian echoes as a boon. But The Washington Post’s report on Thursday in which four women accused Moore of pursuing relationships with them while they were teenagers also recalls the president, and has sent Republicans in Washington running. In a formal statement on behalf of all G.O.P. senators, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “If these allegations are true, [Moore] must step aside.” Other lawmakers have been even blunter: “The allegations against Roy Moore are deeply disturbing and disqualifying. He should immediately step aside and allow the people of Alabama to elect a candidate they can be proud of,” Senator John McCain tweeted on Friday.

Even Trump offered a wishy-washy assurance that “if these allegations are true, Judge Moore will do the right thing and step aside.” “This is what happens when you let reckless, incompetent idiots like Steve Bannon go out and recruit candidates who have absolutely no business running for the U.S. Senate,” Josh Holmes, a former McConnell aide, observed to the Times. (Moore has denied the claims, calling them a political attack by Democrats.)

Bannon, on the other hand, doubled down on his support for the flamethrowing former Alabama Supreme Court chief. At a speech in New Hampshire Thursday night, the Breitbart News head likened the allegations against Moore to the release of the Access Hollywood tape last October in which Trump bragged about groping women, a story the Post also broke. “The Bezos-Amazon-Washington Post that dropped that dime on Donald Trump, is the same Bezos-Amazon-Washington Post that dropped the dime this afternoon on Judge Roy Moore. Now is that a coincidence?” Bannon said, according to CBS News. “It’s purely part of the apparatus of the Democratic Party. They don’t make any bones about it. By the way, I don’t mind it. I’ll call them out every day.”

Bannon went on to recount how, when other advisers urged Trump to drop out of the presidential race in the wake of the hot mic scandal, he told the then Republican nominee to stick it out. “They don’t care about this, they don’t care about locker-room talk,” he recalled telling Trump of voters. “They care about their country, right? I said, we double down now, right? You’re Donald Trump and they’re not, right?” In the case of Trump, Bannon’s instincts proved accurate. But Moore’s race comes at a time when Republicans both on and off Capitol Hill are showing signs of disenchantment with a leadership style that seems out of sync with Washington. At this juncture, then, Moore’s success or failure will likely serve as a gauge for the populist-nationalist movement at large, indicating whether the G.O.P. is still hungry for Trumpism, and whether its appetite extends beyond the man himself.

Alabama

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via Vanity Fair http://bit.ly/2xvuIXg

November 10, 2017 at 08:11AM