Donald Trump, Breitbart, and the Long Con

With Donald Trump’s recent campaign shake-up comes the usual analysis on what it means for the campaign, and the candidate. In this case, however, the elevation of Breitbart chief Steve Bannon as Campaign CEO has some pondering Trump’s plans after the election. Ben Shapiro was the first – or at least the first I saw – to peer beyond November (Daily Wire, emphasis added).

Because Bannon’s ambitions extend to Steve Bannon, he’ll tell Trump he’s doing a fantastic job even if he isn’t. That’s how Bannon Svengalis political figures and investors – by investing them in his personal genius, then hollowing them out from the inside. There’s a reason Sarah Palin went from legitimate political figure to parody artist to Trump endorser, with Steve Bannon standing alongside her every step of the way. There’s a reason Breitbart News went from hard-charging news outlet to drooling Trump mouthpiece. Bannon emerges from all of this unscathed. So what’s next on his agenda? If Trump wins, he’s in a position of high power; if Trump loses, Bannon could head up a new media empire with Trump’s support and the involvement of new Trump supporter and ousted former Fox News head Roger Ailes. Look for Sean Hannity to be a part of any such endeavor.

Shapiro wasn’t alone either (Brian Stelter, CNN, via Media Matters):

Well, what if Trump loses? Think about who he has on his team now. Steve Bannon, Roger Ailes informally, Roger Stone, the confidante who’s known for his dirty tricks. He has all the right people to put in place a new media company, whether it’s a television network or on Facebook or something we can’t picture yet. I think we have to at least consider that possibility even if Trump would never acknowledge that’s real today.

As a transplant to Virginia from New Jersey, I’ve observed Donald Trump (albeit from afar) for over three decades. There are some consistent patterns I’ve observed, namely: (1) rank protectionism on trade policy, (2) a constant willingness to market himself, and (3) attempts to monetize anything he can. Trump Media would answer the mail on (2) and (3), while allowing him to hold forth on (1) ad infinitum.

That leads to the following conundrum: how to turn the anger and rage from this campaign into a revenue stream? However, the answer has already been found, as Brian Schoeneman noted earlier.

Then you’ve got the grifters. These are the folks that Paul Jossey is talking about – the ones who make obscene amounts of money by ripping off people.

They’re the kind who put together Super PACs, raise money in the name of candidates they’ve never talked to, and pocket the proceeds, maybe making a token donation to the campaign of the candidate whose name they used without permission or coordination.

It’s all about the Benjamins for these people. And, unfortunately, they give everybody who is involved in politics as a vocation a bad name. They don’t care about winning or about governing. All they want is your money.

Trump Media will take this one step further by not actually needing to worry about candidates, campaigns, or governing. Turn the angry emails into “news” reports, podcasts, and YouTube channels, and hesto presto – contributions become subscription charges. Throw in a big name (i.e., Hannity) plus some advertising and the business model practically builds itself.

While this may be excellent for Trump and his minions, it is a disaster for the Republican Party. Most of the anti-Trump Republicans are keeping their heads down, waiting for the inevitable defeat, and hoping Trump goes away. Never mind that the voters for Barry Goldwater (the last Republican to suffer a genuine landslide defeat) would be wooed by Nixon, Reagan, and George Wallace for the next decade, while African-Americans have largely never forgiven the party since. Trump Media will ensure that (1) he will not go away; (2) his voters will remain “informed”, angry, and actively engaged, and (3) his Big-Government-for-White-People message will continue to be heard. That’s a toxic combination for the Republican Party, one I still believe it cannot survive.

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