We’re still more than two months away from Election Day, and according to the polls, Donald Trump has a better chance of winning a Grammy for best rap album than he does of winning the presidency. By any measure, Trump is running perhaps the worst presidential campaign of modern times–so bad, in fact, that people are speculating if it isn’t all a plot to get Hillary Clinton elected. (For the record, it’s not. Trump is just a really bad candidate.)
But what if the White House isn’t really Trump’s long-term goal? After all, Trump has openly mused that he could make a lot of money running for president, and, other than domination, money seems to be all he really cares about. He’s already paid his own companies more than $6 million and has said that he will revive Trump University, for which he is being sued for fraud.
But the real tip off came in the past few days, with the shake up in Trump’s campaign. Trump has now entrusted his future to Steve Bannon, a loose cannon from the nutty far-right website Breitbart News. Bannon, who has been dubbed “the most dangerous political operative in America,” has zero campaign experience. What he has experience doing is creating products that cater to the political fringe.
Also jumping onto the S.S. Trump Titanic is Roger Ailes, the former head of Fox News and alleged serial sexual harasser. Ailes made Fox News what is is today–which is a repository of kooky and homophobic tropes.
Breitbart News has always been the kind of site that makes the Fox News look like The New York Times. Named after its founder, Andrew Breitbart, the site published Rep. Andrew Weiner’s crotch shots (Hear that, Peter Thiel?), led the campaign against House Speaker John Boehner and created faux scandals about the Obama administration, some of them hilariously wrong.
Bannon was quick to throw his support behind Trump, which certainly helped drive readership in the site (and possibly dollars–there are reports that Trump has paid Breitbart for the privilege). When Trump’s then-campaign manager, Corey Lewandoski, was accused of pushing a Breitbart report at a rally, the site sided with Breitbart. Indeed, the site actually trashed its own reporter, Michelle Fields, and defended Lewandoski.
When Fox News first emerged, it was controversial and edgy. After two decades on the air, it’s shedding viewers (well, actually, they’re dying–it’s an old folks channel). The channel has taken a few tentative steps to catch up with the times, such as promoting Megyn Kelly, who seems less enamored of the nuttier ideas floating around the network.
But now Fox News is just one of the big news channels. By pushing the accepted limits of journalism, the network has now become identified with the mainstream. Which is the death knell for an organization that depends upon rage against the mainstream.
In short, Fox News is suffering the same fate as the Republican party establishment. Having fed the public a steady diet of the craziest, most extreme beliefs for years, it now finds that people actually take the crazy seriously. And there are even crazier outlets for people to turn to that make Fox News look tame by comparison. Like Breitbart.
Or like the Trump News Channel.
By picking a feud with Fox News during the primaries, Trump proved that the network had lost its political clout. Now he’s using his campaign to put the infrastructure in place for a rival network. Ailes has fans among a clutch of high-profile Fox News personalities who could be enticed to leave the network. Bannon can leverage the Breitbart fan base to create a ready-made audience for a new channel. And Trump will need a high-profile venue to satisfy his thirst for publicity.
So if you think Trump’s defeat in November would be good news, don’t forget that it may be accompanied by bad news: a network led by some of the most dangerous people in politics that will feed the worst impulses of a group that thrives on hate.
Photo credit: Mike Licht
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