The presidential election is getting even stranger, because there is some evidence that Donald Trump is not serious about winning. Instead he might be more interested in building a media empire than moving to the White House.
Some recent moves by the Donald indicate that expanding his media footprint might be his primary goal. These moves include:
- When scandal forced out Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort; he was replaced with alt-right media entrepreneur Stephen Bannon rather than a professional. Bannon’s expertise is in building up the right-wing media site Breitbart News; and promoting figures like Sarah Palin, not in running campaigns.
- Trump has curtailed some of his campaign activities lately, including cancelling rallies even though the election is only about 70 days away. Note this was written on August 26, 2016.
- During the week of August 22, Trump was holding rallies in reliably Red States including Texas and Mississippi while ignoring swing states like North Carolina, Newsweek Political strategists were confused by this, but it’s not confusing; if seen in the light of media events designed to promote the Trump brand among conservative true believers.
- Trump has failed to build up the kind of professional widespread organization needed to win a national campaign. Instead he’s been focusing on rallies and media appearances. His ground game is so amateurish that a 12 year old was running the Trump office in one of Colorado’s largest counties. News stories indicate that Donald almost missed getting on the ballot in Minnesota.
- When I drove through the heavily Republican town of Canon City, Colorado, on August 25, 2016 I saw one Trump sign. It was homemade, and the general election was less than two months away. That’s a sure sign of no local ground level organization.
- Until recently, Trump failed to engage in serious fundraising and spent all his time in media publicity or rallies.
- Trump has failed to distance himself from the so-called Alt Right. A movement composed of economic nationalists, white separatists, and others who reject mainstream or movement conservationism. Trump still embraces Alt Right causes and associates with Alt Right figures; even though it seems to be hurting him in the polls. One reason for Donald’s association with the Alt Right is its large media footprint – especially online.
- Donald’s business; The Trump Organization, and family members like his daughter Ivanka seem to be directing the campaign rather than professional political strategists. The campaign headquarters is even at the Trump Tower.
- Trump has largely ignored and refused to work with the Republican Party; or its establishment, even though he needs their resources to win.
- Trump has failed to engage in serious advertising. News reports indicate Donald has been bickering with advertising agencies while Hillary has been buying up time like crazy.
All this seems to verify Vanity Fair writer Sarah Ellison’s theory that Trump is trying to launch or expand his own media empire. She noted that Trump already has a TV business; Trump Productions LLC, and his son in law Jared Kushner (Ivanka’s husband) owns a newspaper; The New York Observer.
Presidential Campaign, or Publicity Stunt
Trump has strong connections elsewhere in the media, he’s a good friend of National Enquirer CEO and owner David Pecker. The Enquirer and its sister publication The Sun have been heavily involved in Trump’s campaign, supporting him and viciously attacking his opponents.
He’s also been a friend of World Wrestling Entertainment (NYSE: WWE) CEO Vince McMahon Jr. for years. Even though WWE has distanced itself from Trump since his campaign started. Donald has clearly observed how Vince has built up a successful subscription-based digital entertainment channel based around his wrestling promotion.
The WWE Network might serve as a basis for a Trump Channel; which would be promoted by Breitbart News and contain content from The Enquirer. Trump has built up a loyal and devoted national audience through the campaign. Perhaps he hopes that Trump fans; like WWE wrestling marks, will be willing to shell out $9.99 a month to watch is brand of entertainment. My guess is that this and not a cable channel is what Trump is really aiming for.
Breitbart has reached a large national audience with its unique mix of racism, xenophobia, and white nationalist rhetoric. Trump might be hoping to cash in on that, perhaps by selling products to members of the so-called Alt Right.
Trump seems to have made a lot of money selling campaign shtick especially the famous “Make America Great Again” hats. Perhaps he hopes to create an ongoing marketing channel for such products.
The Donald may be trying to reinvent himself as a media figure like Rush Limbaugh. Part old school press baron and part new age high-tech Tribune.
Such a move would be in keeping with Trump’s personality; his favorite movie is reportedly Citizen Kane, Orson Wells’ story of a fictional press baron and failed politician loosely based on the life of William Randolph Hearst. Hearst; like the fictional Kane, became an influential national figure through the ownership of newspapers and magazines that provided a platform for populist politics. Some of Hearst’s politics; including racism and isolationism, were similar to Trump’s agenda.
This brings up an interesting question, was Donald Trump’s whole presidential campaign a publicity stunt for some other endeavor. If it was it raises serious doubts about the media and the Republican Party because they fell for it.