Since leaving the White House, former chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon has stayed in the news as a bit of kingmaker for politicians who will carry his nationalistic populist vision to Washington.
Supposedly, he found his next pick in the Southwest. And now that very same lawmaker is suggesting that the Aug. 12 "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Va., which featured members of the alt-right chanting "White lives matter," was the creation of liberals.
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) told Vice News that its possible George Soros was behind it.
"Maybe [the rally] was created by the left," Gosar said. He then commented on event organizer Jason Kessler: "Because, let’s look at the person that actually started the rally. It’s come to our attention that this is a person from Occupy Wall Street that was an Obama sympathizer. So, wait a minute, be careful where you start taking these people to."
Kessler did vote to elect Barack Obama in 2008, as did a lot of people who later went on to support President Trump's campaign. But it's hard to make a case that Kessler, a former blogger who wrote about "white genocide" and an "attack on white history," actually sympathizes with the nation's first black president when it comes to race issues in America. (For more on just how much Gosar's conspiracy theory clashes with the facts, check out the Morning Mix's piece.)
So what could Gosar catching the attention of Bannon, an executive with a media organization popular with many Americans sympathetic to the white nationalists, mean for the future of the GOP?
CNN has also reported that Bannon is interested in Gosar, who previously ruled out challenging Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) in a primary. "GOP sources in Washington and Arizona tell CNN that Bannon and key allies are hoping Gosar reconsiders," CNN said.
Republican strategist and former Jeb Bush campaign aide Tim Miller noted the coincidence.
Not just any GOP member of Congress spreading C'ville conspiracies - Gosar is the one Bannon is recruiting to primary Jeff Flake in AZ. https://t.co/iJpoX8aIuH
— Tim Miller (@Timodc) October 6, 2017
After backing former Alabama judge Roy Moore, who was criticized for using racial slurs against Asian-Americans and Native Americans, and cozying up to former congressman Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), a now-released former felon who has been accused of using racist language, Bannon seems to be moving forward in taking the GOP in a direction its national organization has made clear it has no interest in going.
Americans' worries about race relations are at a record high, according to a March Gallup poll. And some people wonder if people like Bannon understand these long-held ongoing tensions.
Bannon appeared to mock liberals for their concerns about identity politics after Charlottesville, while suggesting that engaging politics based on demographics is something unique to liberals.
"The race-identity politics of the left wants to say it's all racist," he told the New York Times. "Just give me more. Tear down more statues. Say the revolution is coming. I can't get enough of it."
But as The Fix said before, identity politics is not unique to the left, and backing people like Gosar for higher offices may in fact be playing into them -- but from the right:
White identity politics has always been a thing, and with the election of President Trump, the issue doesn't appear to be leaving the national political conversation any time soon.
This is notable considering the Republican National Committee's disavowal of white supremacy following Trump's much-criticized comments on Charlottesville.
“White supremacy, neo-Nazi, KKK and hate speech and bigotry are not welcome and [do] not have a home in the Republican Party,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel told reporters. “This isn’t a partisan issue. This is an American issue.”
It certainly is. The share of Americans who say racism is a “big problem” -- 58 percent -- has roughly doubled since 2011, according to Pew. But less than 4 in 10 -- 37 percent -- of Republicans say racism is a big problem, which is actually a decline in the number of conservatives with that opinion in 2015.
Conservative lawmakers have done quite a bit to speak out against white supremacy since Charlottesville, including co-sponsoring a bipartisan bill condemning it and asking Trump to put White House dollars behind fighting it. But Gosar associating white supremacists with the left -- and possibly catering to Bannon -- may not be the best approach to get more of the Americans who are concerned about this issue to vote Republican in future elections, especially among the next generation of voters.
A sizable percentages of millennials of color — members of the largest age group in the country — have unfavorable views of the Republican Party, according to a recent NBC News/GenForward survey. Nearly half -- 47 percent -- of black millennials said they have a “very unfavorable” view of the Republican Party.