Trump pivots to a Breitbart scorched-earth campaign

Steve Bannon and Donald Trump: Two peas in a nationalist pod.

Steve Bannon and Donald Trump: Two peas in a nationalist pod.

Many Republicans hoped that with less than three months before the election, nominee Donald Trump would “pivot” to a more traditional, even identifiable campaign. Instead, the Orange Menace reached into a right-wing echo chamber and has all but ensured his defeat in November.

Trump’s latest picks for running his “campaign” (and we’re using that term loosely) are Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway as campaign manager and Steve Bannon, the combative, anti-establishment executive chairman of the conspiracy website Breitbart News, as campaign CEO. (Paul Manafort, facing increased scrutiny amid reports of Russian money laundering to Washington lobbyists and ties to the Russian government, has resigned.)

Bannon was once referred to as the “Leni Reifenstahl of the Tea Party movement,” the famous Nazi propagandist filmmaker. Other colorful descriptors of Bannon are flame-thrower, bomb-thrower, provocateur, and media firebrand. And those are the polite names.

Bannon has been informally advising Trump for months and has urged him to go whole-right-wing-fringe in his campaign. Under Bannon’s leadership. Breitbart has embraced the “alt right” schtick adopted by white supremacists. Breitbart runs with stories questioning the health of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Media Matters has a collection of some of Breitbart’s worst headlines: “World Health Organization report: Trannies 49 Xs higher HIV rate,” “Bill Kristol: Republican spoiler, renegade Jew,” “Planned Parenthood’s body count under Cecile Richards up to half a holocaust,” and  “There’s no bias against women in tech, they just suck at interviews.”

That approach will, I don’t know, alienate even more voters? “Let Trump be Trump” seems to be the campaign’s new mantra. And whatever Breitbart is, it specializes in sticking its thumb into the eyes of GOP leaders.

Trump’s numbers have been tanking since the GOP convention in July in nearly all voter groups. Polls put his unfavorable ranking at about 65 percent and put him seven or eight percentage points behind Clinton, according to the Huffington Post polling aggregate. The website FiveThirtyEight gives Trump a 13.8 percent chance of winning in November and says putting Bannon in charge is “doubling down on a losing strategy.” Most polls also say Clinton is over the needed total of 270 Electoral College votes.

The Washington Post called the choice of Bannon a “middle finger to the GOP establishment.”

In Bannon, Trump has brought in the head of the most unapologetically pro-Trump conservative media outlet in the country. Basically every time Trump has run into controversy, Breitbart has found a way to defend it. The conservative outlet has morphed into more of a virulently anti-establishment, pro-Trump news outlet than anything else. Critics have taken to calling it “Trumpbart” and the “Trump propaganda arm.”

According to the Post, Bannon has encouraged Trump to run as “an unabashed nationalist” — the kind of direction that will give the establishment GOP heartburn. A former Breitbart editor-at-large said Bannon ran the organization like “Trump Pravda.”

A story in the Washington Examiner said that with Bannon’s hiring, Republicans have given up all hope of the possibility of Trump beating Clinton. Trump’s insistence on keeping up the bullying, blowhard persona that got him through the primaries and won him the nomination is “the exact opposite of what Republican insiders were looking for from Trump, and for some, there’s simply no more patience or goodwill left in the tank.” As the Examiner reported:

“Well, it looks like the Trump campaign has gone full Monty,” said a dispirited Republican operative who is publicly supporting Trump and requested anonymity in order to speak candidly.

And speaking of the full Monty, statues of a naked Trump have gone on display (at least temporarily) in New York, Los Angeles, Cleveland, San Francisco, and Seattle. The statues, by a Las Vegas-based artist who uses the name of Ginger, were sponsored by an anarchist collective called INDECLINE and had the title, “The Emperor Has No Balls.”

I don’t know about you, but the image of a naked Orange Menace going full Monty is one I can do without.

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