Concluding that the problem with his presidential campaign so far has been not enough angry white-guy identity politics — and too much restraint — Donald Trump shook up the leadership of his campaign Wednesday, making Steve Bannon, the CEO of #breitbart News, its new chief and also bringing on longtime pollster and Fox News fixture Kellyanne Conway. Among other things, the switch puts the lie to that whole conspiracy theory about the polls not really mattering and Trump actually having a huge lead -- if he’s not losing, why the shakeup?
That Bannon would come aboard is perhaps apropos, as #Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Breitbart News have so much in common that there were rumors last year (never proved or disproved) that the campaign was giving the site payola in exchange for positive coverage. Later, when then-Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was accused of assaulting then-Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields at a campaign event the site, in its coverage, sided with the campaign over its own employee.
And now, the campaign has moved two entire dirtbag deviations past Corey Lewandowski: first to longtime consilgliere-to-dictators Paul Manafort — whose past clients have included Angolan strongman and reputed cannibal Jonas Savimbi — and now to Bannon.
Trump: the website
In case you’re not familiar with Breitbart News, it’s like Donald Trump himself in media outlet form. Always anti-establishment, especially during the lifetime of its founder Andrew Breitbart, the Bannon-headed incarnation of the site has been marked by two things also associated with the candidate it supports: An only tenuous grasp on the truth, and a tendency to embrace the ugliest forms of bigotry and prejudice.
Breitbart.com is often associated with the movement of racist and anti-Semitic Internet bottom feeders called the alt-right, providing the professional home for its de-factor leader, Milo Yiannopoulos, while also regularly publishing the fanatical anti-Muslim blogger Pamela Geller. It recently ran a piece referring to anti-Trump Republican Bill Kristol as a “Renegade Jew.”
And the site’s factual leaps are legion: Earlier this month, it tried to pass off a photo of the crowd at the Cleveland Cavaliers’ championship parade as that of a Trump rally. It posted a piece “revealing” that Attorney General Loretta Lynch was formerly a lawyer for the Clintons during Whitewater (it was a different Loretta Lynch.)
So in other words, it’s unapologetic, right-wing, “not politically correct,” and focused heavily on white identity politics with only a tenuous grasp of the truth. Just like Donald Trump. The fit is so perfect that many have speculated that Trump’s real strategy is to start a conservative media outlet of his own once the election is over, with the help of various Breitbart folks and possibly Fox News’ Roger Ailes.
A losing strategy
The problem is, we’ve already seen the limits of Trump’s strategy of saying the most offensive thing possible, never apologizing, and “taking the gloves off.” It’s led to him falling way behind in every major poll of the nation and of swing states. Going scorched-earth and ultra-right, as the Bannon hire implies, won’t add any new voters beyond Trump’s base. It will only serve to turn off anyone outside that base.
There’s also the issue of Bannon's experience. He has enjoyed a colorful career as a Naval officer, an investment banker, a movie producer, a media executive and an all-purpose political operative. But one thing he hasn’t done, much like Lewandowski and Manafort, is run a presidential campaign.
If Trump’s solution is to make his campaign more like Breitbart News than it already is, that’s not likely to lead to a closer election. But it will almost certainly lead to a much uglier one. #Trumpbart