Author Charlie Sykes was best-known as a top Wisconsin conservative talk show host who frequently interviewed fellow cheeseheads and GOP favorites Paul Ryan and Reince Preibus. But when candidate Donald Trump appeared on the political scene, Sykes became a vocal member of #NeverTrump, warning his listeners about this “dangerous” candidate.
His newest book is called How the Right Lost Its Mind. On the “Powerhouse Politics” podcast, he explained how conservatives have strayed from their core values. He points a finger at the Trump campaign’s chief strategist Steve Bannon and what he describes as “revenge of crazy town.”
“Steve Bannon is so much a part of this Trump story. Here’s a guy who flirted with the alt-right. Don’t pass this point — he was in the White House. He had the ear of the President of the United States. Here’s basically one of the gods of dysfunction and he was sitting in the White House.”
Now that Bannon has left the White House and returned to the right-wing Breitbart News website, Sykes says the “worst people in the world” are becoming the faces of the GOP.
“It doesn’t look like a strategy to me as much as an unfocused, vindictive rage. It doesn’t even appear to be ideological principled as much as it seems to be, let’s burn it all down, let’s tear it all down, and let’s see what happens.”
Sykes highlights several tumultuous races including the Alabama Senate race in which Bannon has backed controversial former Alabama state chief justice Roy Moore, and the Arizona Senate race where Bannon-backed candidate Kelli Ward is challenging incumbent Sen. Jeff Flake.
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“Look at this from Donald Trump’s point of view. Part of the fact of Trump’s success is that he empowered the fringes. This is his base, and I think Trump was rattled a lot by what happened in Alabama because he cannot afford to let someone get to the more populist right than him. You see this back and forth, this tug of wanting to get things done, but recognizing that these folks from crazy town are the ones that got you the nomination and got you elected. I think he’s going to ping-pong between the two of them.”
Sykes goes on to say Democrats should like what they see in those two states.
“If I am a Democrat, I am delighted to see Steve Bannon burning down, trying to destroy incumbent Republicans, and replace them with rather eccentric folks out there.”
Sykes says he “cringes” when he talks about one of his former favorite radio guests, Speaker Paul Ryan, and mentioned his “really profound disappointment.”
“I have known him for many years, and really did see him as the intellectual leader of the conservative movement, and very much the alternative path the conservatives and Republicans could have taken. He had no illusions about who and what Donald Trump was, but he’s made a Faustian bargain.” Sykes said that Speaker Ryan is “all-in” on Trump.
In his book, Sykes describes what he believes is the damage Trump has done to the conservative wing of the Republican party.
“The reality of Donald Trump is that even though for the moment, he will occasionally adopt conservative values, Donald Trump is not a deeply principled, deep-thinking individual. He is not a life-long “ movement conservative”. He will throw them under the bus whenever it becomes convenient. And much of his base will go along with him.”