Be careful what you ask for. I was frustrated with Mitch McConnell's failure to prioritize the defunding of Planned Parenthood. So, I recently suggested that the pro-life movement should consider strategically recruiting primary challengers against those who are seemingly lifers in name only (LINOs?). I will stand by that advice. Better to weed out the hypocritical Tim Murphy's of the world early if we can. I do not, however, endorse outsourcing the job to Steve Bannon.
Bannon, you recall, oversaw the last leg of Donald Trump's campaign. Then he had a short and controversial tenure as a chief strategist in the White House. Now, Bannon is back with his hands on what he calls his "weapons" at Breitbart.com.
An exclusive story there recently proclaimed that Bannon would "headline" the upcoming Values Voter Summit. Tony Perkins is the president of the Family Research Council that organizes the event. Perkins says in the piece, "Steve Bannon, who helped orchestrate the grassroots political movement that led to President Trump's success is now moving to Act II — the U.S. Senate." Indeed, Bannon has made no secret of his desire to prop up primary candidates against GOP lawmakers who do not fit his mold.
That mold is a warped one, though. (For starters, one of his candidates is fresh out of prison.) But Bannon would have you believe that his biggest win so far is Judge Roy Moore's primary triumph in Alabama. Yet, Moore never trailed in the polls and had won statewide elections twice on his own before the two ever set foot on the same stage. Just who is riding whose coattails?
Importantly, the day after Breitbart was touting the boss's ties to Christian conservatives, another story broke on Buzzfeed reminding us of who else Bannon has linked arms with recently. Remember Milo Yiannopoulos, the flamboyant, foul-mouthed, self-described "Dangerous Faggot" who under Bannon was the brightest star in the Breitbart universe. Milo was set to headline CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, last year until video re-emerged of him defending men having sex with 13 year-old boys. Well, it turns out Yiannopoulos was also chummy enough with Richard Spencer, the pro-abortion white supremacist, to hang out at a karaoke bar together. (Watch as Yiannopoulos belts out "America the Beautiful" while Spencer and others throw up Nazi salutes.)
Yes, Buzzfeed is a salacious outlet, but the data dump of videos and emails looks legitimate. The article also meticulously outlines how Yiannopoulos regularly corresponded in a collegial manner with several other white supremacists and neo-Nazis.
The fame that Yiannopoulos enjoyed was prodded along directly by Bannon. He repeatedly urged the provocateur into the fray. "We want you to stir up more," Bannon privately wrote. Publicly, Bannon and Yiannopoulos bantered back and forth about a conservative media that worried too much over questions like "Is this racist?" (with Bannon affirming, "We try to push the envelope every day"). If Bannon now decides to feign surprise at the ties of his pupil, it will ring about as true as Captain Renault's "shock" at the presence of gambling in Casablanca.
Even after Yiannopoulos resigned from Breitbart once the pederasty quotes broke, Buzzfeed reports the site's editor-in-chief, Alex Marlow, accompanied him to the home of Bannon's chief patron, the hedge fund billionaire Robert Spencer. There, they were to discuss "MILO INC." An email a few days later announcing a wire payment apparently shows that the visit was a success.
I do not recommend that you visit what Bannon described to the The Weekly Standard as the "f****ing machine" he built at Breitbart. If you do, though, you will see shots being taken at some familiar foes. But the enemy of my enemy is not always my friend. And contrary to the teachings of Christ, there is not a lot of love on display for those enemies. There is also plenty of venom aimed at friendly faces.
Former Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro reminded conservatives that Bannon turned the website into the sort of outlet that its late founder would have abhorred. "Andrew Breitbart despised racism," writes Shapiro, "Truly despised it." Bannon, however, has bragged that the site is "the platform for the alt-right." These recent revelations show that the supports for that platform runs deep into a racist pit.
Politics is a complicated game. By necessity, it involves partnering with imperfect people. It also involves strategically not partnering with certain people, despite shared interests. William F. Buckley helped to bring together a fusionist conservatism of somewhat unlikely bedfellows. Nevertheless, he and National Review expressly barred the door to the red paranoia of the John Birch Society and the godless objectivism of Ayn Rand. That was not easy, but it was right.
Yiannopoulos now claims that he could not see what was going on right in front of him at that karaoke joint. Unless the goal is to look as silly as Milo, we politically active believers should open our eyes. The owner of the bar says he tossed the alt-righters out when he saw the salutes go up. Will conservative Christians do the same?
Bannon, two-shirted and thrice-divorced, has been belting out his discordant song for a while. He is now inviting frustrated Christians to hum along. Ralph Reed recently lavished praise on Bannon in a joint podcast. For his part, Tony Perkins told Breitbart that he was "excited" to see Bannon and values voters teaming up to show that "true conservatives are on the march." Using such a metaphor in the wake of the deadly Charlottesville "Unite the Right" rally probably never struck Perkins as problematic. That, of course, is part of the problem.
Christians are called to be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves. We should not sit these coming elections out, but we can sing our own songs. Our goal is to do politics while displaying the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Our savior is Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace and the creator of all things, not a guy with an angry website and a billionaire friend.