Colorado Democrats oppose Bannon appointment as Republicans are quiet

Stephen Bannon turned Breitbart News into a platform for the “alt-right.” President-elect Donald Trump has tapped him to be his chief strategist.

Donald Trump rally. July 29, 2016. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)donald trump; politics; election; vote; denver; colorado; republican; denverite; kevinjbeaty

Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet and representatives Diana DeGette, Ed Perlmutter and Jared Polis have all come out against President-elect Donald Trump’s decision to appoint Stephen Bannon as his senior policy advisor and chief strategist.

“Mr. Trump’s decision to hire Steve Bannon — who has a history of promoting racist, misogynist, and anti-Semitic propaganda — sends a terrible message to our country,” Bennet wrote in a Facebook post. “The President-elect should reconsider his decision to place such a divisive figure in this role.”

DeGette said that Trump’s personnel decisions reflect on his administration and whether he’ll hold to his victory speech promise to be a president for all Americans.

“Immediate advisors such as Steve Bannon and proposed agency heads work with the president to set the direction for an administration; his selection of them sets its tone,” she wrote in a statement on her website.

Reps. Polis and Perlmutter are among 169 House Democrats who signed a letter circulated by Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island. No Republicans have signed the letter so far, and no member of Colorado’s Republican delegation has issued a statement on Bannon.

“Millions of Americans have expressed fear and concern about how they will be treated by the Trump Administration and your appointment of Mr. Bannon only exacerbates and validates their concerns,” the letter says.

Bannon, who also served as CEO of Trump’s campaign, is a man with close ties to white supremacists. In a strongly worded statement, the Anti-Defamation League called on Trump to choose someone else.

“It is a sad day when a man who presided over the premier website of the Alt Right, a loose-knit group of white nationalists and unabashed anti-Semites and racists, is slated to be a senior staff member in the ‘people’s house,’ ” said Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the ADL, a nonpartisan organization that fights anti-Semitism and other forms of prejudice.

Trump’s appointment of Bannon is not subject to any oversight or confirmation. It’s his choice, and these calls on Trump to choose someone less frightening have only the moral power one chooses to assign them.

What’s the deal with Bannon?

He was chairman of Breitbart News before taking over the Trump campaign, and while he took a leave of absence to attend to his campaign duties, he still sits at the head of what is quickly becoming one of the largest conservatives news sites. This has raised the prospect of Breitbart serving as a media arm of the Trump administration.

In Bannon’s own words, he turned Breitbart into a “platform for the alt-right.” Alt-right is what white supremacists call themselves now. (They claim they are not racist, but rather “unapologetically embrac(e) a new identity politics that prioritises the interests of their own demographic.” Well then.) Personally, I would like us to stop using the term alt-right, but it’s the term you’ll see associated with Bannon and Breitbart.

In a year that has seen a surge of anti-Semitic online harassment, Breitbart makes sure to highlight the ethnicity of Jewish people who criticize Trump, calling conservative writer Bill Kristol a “renegade Jew” and saying of Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum “hell hath no fury like a Polish, Jewish, American elitist scorned.” Breitbart also runs stories like “Birth control makes women unattractive and crazy” and “Hoist it high and proud: The Confederate Flag proclaims a glorious heritage.”

Open white supremacists, including David Duke and the American Nazi Party, have praised the Bannon pick. A commenter on Daily Stormer wrote, “Bannon is our man in the White House.”

 What does Mike Coffman think of the Bannon appointment?

Rep. Coffman distanced himself from Trump during his re-election campaign, running an ad that said he “doesn’t care for” the man who was then the nominee and promising to hold whoever won accountable. He later said he wouldn’t vote for Trump.

The man who answered the phone at Coffman’s Washington office said he hadn’t had a chance to discuss the Bannon appointment with Coffman but there isn’t much Congress can do about it anyway. I left a message with Coffman’s spokeswoman, and I’ll update this post if I get a response.

Talking Points Memo caught up with Coffman at a meeting of House Republicans where “Make America Great Hats” were distributed.

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO), a Republican who ran ads against Trump on the trail, shuffled out of the meeting hat in hand.

“I am excited about the next two years and look forward to working with the president,” Coffman said, adding that he was excited to do tax reform and to repeal and replace Obamacare.

“I’ll tell you what is so exciting is I no longer have to worry about executive orders or excesses in the rule making process,” Coffman said.

I also left messages for Republicans Rep. Ken Buck, Rep. Scott Tipton and Rep. Doug Lamborn, as well as Sen. Cory Gardner, who said late in the campaign that he no longer supported Trump. I’ll update this post if I hear anything from them.

Where do Jewish organizations come down on the Bannon appointment?

While the ADL came out with a strong condemnation, the largest mainstream organizations are mostly quiet. This isn’t really out of love for Bannon, though he has his Jewish defenders. As the Washington Post reports, some organizations feel it’s better not to be too vocal too early, lest they lose any hope of influencing a future Trump administration.

The differing responses to the Trump presidency have highlighted tensions among Jewish Americans, who find themselves faced with what is perhaps a no-win decision. On the one hand, they fear that if Jews complain too shrilly now, they could be shut out of the decision-making process in the White House for four years. On the other, they fear assenting quietly as the terrifying anti-Semitism of the alt-right bubbles up from the depths of the Internet all the way into the highest seat of power.

“They really do want to work with the new administration as much as they can, inasmuch as their conscience will allow. They have legislative agendas,” said Steve Rabinowitz, a strategy consultant who works for several major Jewish institutions and also ran a Super PAC supporting Hillary Clinton. “Criticizing them six days after their election is not a great way to start, unless you feel compelled because what happened is just so egregious that you have to.”

For what it’s worth, I also reached out to Larry Mizel, a prominent Jewish businessman and philanthropist in Denver who hosted a fundraiser for Trump earlier this year. I didn’t hear back.

Correction: This article has been changed to reflect that Daily Stormer is not affiliated with Stormfront.

Erica Meltzer

Author: Erica Meltzer

Erica Meltzer covers government and politics. She's worked for newspapers in Colorado, Arizona and Illinois and once won a First Amendment Award by showing up in the wrong place at the wrong time. She served in the Peace Corps in Paraguay and can swear fluently in Guarani. She gets emotional about public libraries. Contact Erica Meltzer at 303-502-2802, emeltzer@denverite.com or @meltzere.