A gloss on the news today about Steve Bannon joining Team Trump. I recommend Larry’s post from this morning as your starting point on that. His objection to candidate/media collusion is, to my mind, indisputable, and having known Andrew Breitbart personally, he can speak to what AB might have thought of all this more insightfully than I can. I do want to post this clip, though, not as a rejoinder to Larry but as a reminder to some of my friends on the #NeverTrump side that Andrew’s feelings about Trump might have been more complicated than they think. I remember Ben Domenech of The Federalist saying on a podcast not long ago that he thought Trump would have been torpedoed in the primaries last year had AB still been running the show at Breitbart.com. I hear similar things from #NeverTrumpers whenever Breitbart publishes an especially effusive tribute to Trump, that Andrew never would have tolerated such a thing. That’s probably true, at least in terms of tone. AB once famously acknowledged on Fox News that Trump is no conservative — he was for Nancy Pelosi before he was against her, he quipped, alluding to Trump’s political donations — and his political idiom of choice was never the sort of adulation that Breitbart frequently lapses into when writing about Trump. Nothing I saw of him, in print or on video, makes me think he would have apologized for the alt-right. (Andrew was proudly Jewish.) Whether any of that would have had an impact on the primaries, we’ll never know.
But does that mean he would have actively opposed Trump? Some #NeverTrumpers seem to take it for granted, a natural reaction when you’re imagining whether a departed figure whom you respected would choose your side in a debate, but watch this and speculate. A friend shrewdly points out that Andrew’s unity plea here was actually in service to the anti-Trump, Mitt Romney. He was using his impeccable cred as a grassroots righty to try to convince Romney skeptics within the base to suck it up and back the establishmentarian in the name of defeating the left. That’s what #WAR means — us versus them, even if “us” is led by a squish. AB puts it in military terms explicitly more than once. I’ll “march behind” our candidate, he says early on, before finishing with “If you’re not in that bunker because you’re not satisfied with this candidate, more than ‘shame on you.’ You’re on the other side.” Does that sound like someone who’d be comfortable with #NeverTrump? It is possible that Andrew, having dismissed Trump once as a phony conservative, would have gone all out to beat him in the primaries. But if he failed and Trump won, the logic of this clip suggests that he’d be a loyal soldier for the nominee. I think it’s possible, or even likely, that he would have ended up like Brad Thor, deeply skeptical of Trump but convinced that the left would advance on too many fronts over the next four years with Clinton in charge. My sense of AB was always that he was more deeply anti-left than he was tied to any specific wing of the right (although if I had to identify him, I’d say libertarian-leaning), which might have made it easier for him to accommodate nationalism than it’s been for, say, Ted Cruz fans. And I think he would have admired, grudgingly or not, Trump’s ability to manipulate the media to his advantage in the primaries. Although you can also imagine him warning, “This is all going to change once it’s Trump versus a Democrat instead of Trump versus 16 Republicans.” And he would have been right.
Would AB have supported Bannon joining Team Red to try to beat Team Blue, then? I’ll defer to Larry, but I think it’s more debatable than some anti-Trumpers seem to.