We knew that it could happen but no one, I think, thought that it would happen.
One day you’re the president’s chief strategist, the next day you’re a populist kingmaker poised to mastermind a Republican revolution in Senate primaries. And then the day after that, you’re a cuck without a job whom the president refers to as “Sloppy Steve.”
To wrap your head around how quickly the news cycle moves these days, reflect on the fact that it was less than a month ago that Roy Moore lost the Alabama Senate race to Doug Jones. That was supposed to be the launchpad for Bannon’s series of primary challenges to McConnell’s incumbents. Less than a month later, Moore is a political nonentity and Bannon, thanks to his penchant for gabbing to Michael Wolff, has lost his “killing machine” at Breitbart. He tried to engineer a coup of sorts in the Senate. Instead, by badmouthing Donald Trump Jr on the record to Wolff, he handed the president a reason to engineer a coup against him at his own website.
He waged #WAR, and he lost. Bigly.
Bannon and Breitbart will work together on a smooth and orderly transition.
Bannon said, “I’m proud of what the Breitbart team has accomplished in so short a period of time in building out a world-class news platform.”
According to Breitbart CEO Larry Solov, “Steve is a valued part of our legacy, and we will always be grateful for his contributions, and what he has helped us to accomplish.”
An interesting point by a Twitter pal:
Bannon has money but he’s always craved patrons, first Andrew Breitbart, then the Mercers, then Donald Trump. He’s lost them all. Where to now? One possibility is that he’ll try to rebuild his fledgling career as a kingmaker by going to Arizona to try to help Kelli Ward win the GOP primary there — if she’ll accept his help. Having been temporarily excommunicated from the Trump GOP by the president, Bannon may find that no one’s willing to work with him now lest they be excommunicated too. Case in point:
— Bridget Bowman (@bridgetbhc) January 9, 2018
The other possibility is that he’ll go off and found his own online media venture, assuming he can get some of his loyalists at Breitbart like Matt Boyle to go with him. The new venture would be populist, obviously, and probably slavishly pro-Trump at the beginning to try to re-ingratiate Bannon to POTUS. He’s not going to build an audience as large as Breitbart’s so long as he remains persona non grata in TrumpWorld. He needs the president’s benediction and that’ll require more than the usual ass-kissing. And Trump will give it to him — eventually. If Mitt Romney can get back in Trump’s good graces after their history, Steve Bannon obviously can. The question is whether he starts small, with a new website and radio show, or if he’s so committed to the image he was building of himself as a Major Player in the GOP that he tries to do something more grandiose, to make a splash. I bet Peter Thiel will be getting a call soon, assuming he hasn’t gotten one already.
Bannon’s future is less interesting than Breitbart’s future. What do they do now, shorn of their figurehead? In particular, what do they do if the Bannonites on staff like Boyle exit en masse? The site could end up having an entirely (well, not entirely) new political identity. Some Bannon-hating Breitbart alumni like Ben Shapiro and former Hot Air editor Larry O’Connor pray that it’s so:
“It’s impossible to say how the site would have evolved under Andrew’s leadership,” [Meredith] Dake-O’Connor said. “In my observation, Andrew was far less interested in Washington tick-tock than Steve’s editorial vision. Andrew despised the incestuous relationship that media organizations had with politicians. Steve recreated that incestuous relationship but on the other side of the aisle. I cannot imagine Andrew doing the same thing.”
Larry O’Connor agrees with his wife, “Although the site was obviously focused on national politics quite a bit with the big government web page, and he was intent on keeping the main operation in Los Angeles. He had no interest in moving to DC and he had no interest in having the central focus of the site be Washington politics. So to that end, I think that there’s been a pretty major departure.”
“But beyond that, there’s a question of tone,” O’Connor continued, blaming Bannon for that change in tone. “Under Andrew we were sharp and pointed and we would criticize and attack our political foes, but it was never mean, it was never vicious. It was fun. Think of Andrew on Rollerblades, that was the spirit of Andrew and it was the spirit of what the sites represented. Since those days, I believe the content on the site now is mean and angry and vicious and vengeful and destructive.”
In theory Bannon’s ouster and the purging of loyalists is a chance for Larry Solov and the Mercers to reboot the site. In practice doing that would be highly risky given the traffic they’d stand to lose from alienating readers who expect a certain product, particularly knowing that Bannon will be out there looking to gobble up any consumers who dislike the new direction. The lesson of his defenestration by Trump is that you don’t cross Trump and survive in the populist ecosystem. Whatever Breitbart does now, whether it’s more media-oriented a la Andrew Breitbart’s vision or more political a la Bannon’s, it’ll have to be slavishly pro-Trump as well in order to retain its market edge. I’m sure the Mercers, who spent a lot of money helping make Trump president, wouldn’t want it any other way.
If all that changes is that it’s no longer “the platform for the alt-right” without Bannon’s leadership, that’s progress in and of itself. Thanks, Mr. President! And congratulations to “globalists” everywhere, I guess.
Update: If you believe CNN, Bannon is as surprised as the rest of us are.
Just days before Bannon stepped down from his role as Breitbart executive chairman, he insisted to friends and others that he wasn’t going anywhere, two sources familiar with the situation said.
He expected to remain at Breitbart’s helm and believed he would remain an influential figure in conservative politics despite the fiery flaming out of his relationship with the President.
Bannon has also said in recent days that he was keeping his plans alive to build up a political nonprofit Citizens of the American Republic, insisting funding from other GOP donors was still secure, even after the Mercers cut ties with him in the wake of his feud with the President. Those plans are now also in question as he leaves his influential Breitbart perch.
Steve Bannon is out at Breitbart News! pic.twitter.com/iMpg7WxWk5
— Ben Howe (@BenHowe) January 9, 2018