On a recent episode of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” host Joe Scarborough declared that the primary election season for the Republican party is over. Scarborough’s reasoning? The fact that former Trump advisor Steve Bannon is now actively endorsing primary challengers to incumbent Republican senators.
Bannon, who left the White House in August, has made it clear that he intends to target Republican lawmakers who he views as too moderate or not sufficiently committed to the Trump agenda. His goal, according to an interview he gave to The Washington Post, is to replace every Republican senator up for re-election in 2018 with a candidate who is more aligned with the populist, nationalist views that he and the president espouse.
So far, Bannon has thrown his support behind Roy Moore, who is challenging incumbent Senator Luther Strange in the Republican primary in Alabama. Moore is a controversial figure who has been twice removed from the state supreme court for disobeying federal court orders. He has also made headlines for his extreme views on social issues, including opposition to same-sex marriage and support for the display of the Ten Commandments in public spaces.
Bannon has also expressed support for primary challengers in Nevada, Arizona, and Mississippi, among other states. In each case, he has framed his efforts as a battle for the soul of the Republican party. He sees himself and his allies as the true heirs to the Trump revolution and believes that the only way to effect meaningful change in Washington is to elect candidates who are unwaveringly committed to the president’s vision.
Not everyone agrees with Bannon’s approach, of course. Some Republican leaders have accused him of fostering a culture of divisiveness within the party, and worry that his tactics could ultimately hurt the GOP’s chances in next year’s midterms. Others, however, see Bannon as a much-needed catalyst for change in a party that has grown stagnant and out of touch with its base.
Regardless of how one views Bannon’s strategy, Scarborough’s comments are worth considering. If the former Trump advisor is able to successfully upend the primary process and install more ideological candidates in key races, it could signal a seismic shift within the Republican party. Whether that shift will help or hurt the GOP’s chances of maintaining control of Congress remains to be seen. But one thing is clear: the primary election season is far from over. In fact, it may just be getting started.