In the wake of the failure of the Trump administration to push through the American Health Care Act (AHCA), several prominent libertarian organizations have stepped up attacks on top adviser and former Breitbart editor Steve Bannon. The criticisms stem in large part from a meeting Bannon held with the House Freedom Caucus, a group that attacked the AHCA from the right as not going far enough to gut the Affordable Care Act. The Freedom Caucus vision would have expelled millions from health coverage in the United States.
In the meeting, Bannon reportedly told Freedom Caucus members that, “Guys, look. This is not a discussion. This is not a debate. You have no choice but to vote for this bill.” One Freedom Caucus member reportedly stated, “You know, the last time someone ordered me to something, I was 18 years old. And it was my daddy. And I didn’t listen to him, either.”
An article by Fritz Pettyjohn of the Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force published on the blog of the libertarian Heartland Institute lashed out at Bannon’s heavy-handed approach with the Freedom Caucus:
“I thought Bannon was a very smart guy, and it turns out he’s not. Anybody who tells a room full of Congressmen that they “have no choice”, they must vote for your bill, is a fool. I’ll give Bannon the benefit of the doubt, and call it taking a temporary leave of his senses, probably from stress. But that’s brain dead dumb. I was in a State Legislature for eight years, and if anybody ever told me I had no choice, I had to vote for a bill, I would have either cursed him or laughed at him, probably both. In a legislature, your vote is your manhood, and you don’t let anybody take it from you.”
Pettyjohn declares that Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), who assailed the AHCA from the libertarian right, “has got the right approach. Keep talking, trying to find common ground. There are a lot of ideas out there. Let them percolate, and try putting something together that could pass in a Reconciliation Bill, not subject to filibuster, at the end of the fiscal year in October.”
A polemic by Nick Gillespie published on the libertarian Reason.com blog recounts Steven Bannon’s comment published in the New York Magazine that
“I think the Democrats are fundamentally afflicted with the inability to discuss and have an adult conversation about economics and jobs, because they’re too consumed by identity politics. And then the Republicans, it’s all this theoretical Cato Institute, Austrian economics, limited government — which just doesn’t have any depth to it. They’re not living in the real world.”
“It’s always nice to be attacked as delusional and out of touch, especially by a Hollywood-cum-Wall Street millionaire whose boss falsely insists that cities have never been less safe, that American manufacturing has never created so little, and that we’re just one or two border walls and torn-up free trade deals away from once again being a nation of factory workers… President Trump is so famously post-factual that he cites riots that never happened as pretexts for executive orders, invents crime statistics out of thin air, and insisted for years that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. But it’s libertarians who are nuttier than a squirrel’s turd? Sure, why not.”
“Like Captain Ahab in Moby-Dick,” Gillespie writes, “Bannon looks around and only sees himself and his own obsessions.”
Conservative MSNBC television host Joe Scarborough also rang in, blaming Bannon for giving Trump bad advice and declaring “If he wants to get his 36 [percent] to 56 [percent], he’s going to have to fire Steve Bannon.”
At this odd juncture in American political history, IREHR agrees with Morning Joe on this point.