How Mitch McConnell defeated Steve Bannon, explained

"McConnell won the war with Bannon — if the word accurately describes this one-sided engagement"

Published May 24, 2019 6:09PM (EDT)

 (AP/Domenico Stinellis)
(AP/Domenico Stinellis)

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

Alt-right agitator Steve Bannon has often expressed his contempt for what he considers the “Republican establishment,” and one of the people he was especially contemptuous of in 2017 was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. But conservative journalist Noah Rothman examines the Bannon/McConnell rivalry in a May 23 article for Commentary Magazine—and declares that McConnell won, hands down.

Rothman notes that the 65-year-old Bannon described McConnell as an enemy of President Donald Trump’s agenda during a September 2017 interview with Charlie Rose, saying, “Mitch McConnell and this permanent political class is the most corrupt and incompetent group of individuals in this country. They have helped destroy this country. They have perpetrated economic hate crimes against the good people of this country.”

But Bannon, Rothman stresses, is much more favorable to McConnell now. In a recent interview with PBS, Bannon—who was executive chairman at Breitbart News before serving as White House chief strategist in the Trump Administration in 2017—asserted, “There’s nobody (with whom) I’ve had bigger disagreements than Mitch McConnell because, to me, he’s the epitome of the establishment. That being said, if you’re a conservative, he essentially saved the country.”

Since leaving the Trump administration, Bannon has been spending a lot of time in Europe—where he has championed far-right extremists like Marine Le Pen (who heads France’s racist National Front) and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. And in Italy, Bannon has been railing against Pope Francis (who he considers too liberal and pro-gay) and has, according to NBC News, spent roughly $1 million of his own money to lease and restore an 800-year-old monastery he envisions as a bastion of far-right anti-Francis Catholicism.

As Rothman sees it, the fact that Bannon has been spending so much time in Europe underscores his declining influence in the United States. And Bannon’s “about-face” where McConnell is concerned, Rothman stresses, shows that decline as well.

Rothman recalls, “Even as McConnell was notching victory after victory for Trump’s judicial agenda, Bannon was still banging on about the anti-Trump usurpers in the Republican Party, among whom the Senate majority leader was foremost.” Now, it seems, Bannon is willing the Senate majority leader a lot more credit. But that’s only because of how thoroughly Bannon was defeated:

McConnell won the war with Bannon—if the word accurately describes this one-sided engagement—by demonstrating the kind of competence in governance the populist wing of the GOP not only lacks but seems to resent.

The piece also noted that Bannon’s unique prescriptions — making the 2018 elections about the border, engaging in a trade war with China — have been some of Trump’s most resounding failures.

Rothman concludes his piece by describing Bannon’s recent pro-McConnell statements as “the breaking of Bannon’s sword” and the failure of his war against “the Republican establishment.”

By Alex Henderson

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