From the very start, Donald Trump has made “winning” a key part of his political branding. Early in his campaign he promised his supporters that “We’re going to win so much, you’re going to be so sick and tired of winning.” Now that Trump has been falling behind Hillary Clinton in most polls, it’s safe to say that his fans are indeed sick and tired, but winning surely isn’t the reason.
The latest evidence of Trump’s waning electoral fate is yet another campaign shake up. It was just a few weeks ago that Trump sent his long-time campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, packing (he has since taken up residence at CNN) and brought in Paul Manafort to turn things around. Not only has Manafort presided over a continued and worsening slump, he has managed to find himself making news with his unsavory ties to foreign dictators and Russian-affiliated oligarchs.
Now Trump has brought in two familiar associates in an attempt to repair his sagging fortunes. The campaign’s new chief executive will be Stephen Bannon, currently the Executive Chairman of Breitbart News. Bannon has been an ardent advocate for Trump who turned the Breitbart organization into a virtual Trump PR machine. However, he has not been a unanimous favorite among his peers. Ben Shapiro, a former Breitbart editor, complained that Bannon had “shaped the company into Trump’s personal Pravda.” Glenn Beck joined in to compare Bannon to Joseph Goebbels.
Bannon will also be remembered (or not) as the the writer/director of the pathetic cinematic flop “The Undefeated,” a documentary about Sarah Palin that went straight to video despite heavy promotion from Fox News. With any luck he’ll bring that same ability and skill to Donald Trump’s campaign.
The other new campaign hire is Kellyanne Conway, who will become Trump’s campaign manager. Conway is the president and CEO of The Polling Company, a Republican outfit that conducts surveys and advises GOP candidates on strategy. She is also a commentator on CNN where she fiercely defends everything Trump does and says no matter how ridiculous or offensive. This puts CNN in the unique position of employing both Trump’s former campaign manager (Lewandowski) and his new one. If they have any journalistic integrity at all, Conway will be suspended immediately. But having hired Lewandowski when he is still being paid by Trump, and is contractually prohibited from criticizing him, CNN’s integrity is already suspect.
These additions to the Trump team follow by one day the news that ex-Fox News CEO Roger Ailes will be coaching Trump to prepare him for his debates with Clinton and providing other campaign advice. Ailes, you will recall, was forced into early retirement after numerous accusations of sexual harassment at Fox. It is not known whether Ailes played any role in the remaking of Trump’s campaign, but he does have history with Bannon. More recently, Bannon penned two defenses of Ailes for Breitbart News. One alleged that Gretchen Carlson’s sexual harassment lawsuit was meritless. The other that it is part of a broader liberal conspiracy against Ailes.
Significantly, two of Trump’s top campaign operatives are now former media executives. That paints a picture of a campaign that is more interested in propaganda than politics. Expect Trump’s campaign to venture even further into attacks on the mainstream media and their plot to destroy Trump and, therefore, America. Simultaneously, they can be expected to exploit the media to amplify Trump’s voice and nationalistic fervor.
How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.
The value of these personnel moves seems underwhelming. Manafort, with all his baggage, will remain as the chairman of the campaign. And along with Bannon and Kelly they will continue to face the challenge of getting Trump to listen to anyone other than himself. However, their first duty will be to spin this latest campaign reinvention as further proof that Trump is winning.