Breitbart posted a piece today about the recently passed budget. The piece is fascinating and not a little disturbing. It’s fundamentally a “framing” piece; there’s not much content here, it’s mostly just positioning for the 2018 elections. But there are a couple of pretty fascinating nuggets.
First, I think this offers an interesting glimpse into how the Trump government is attempting to manipulate the media. Spicer suggests on Twitter that renewing the existing funding for border protection, along with the floodwater control system, is victory. One of his surrogates calls Breitbart and claims that a “bollard wall and levee wall of this scale will prevent illegal immigrants from crossing the border.” And Breitbart is having none of it. It’s interesting to note that this was a direct conversation between the White House and Breitbart, and clearly not the first. Steve Bannon is one of Trump’s top advisers, one of the most powerful men in the government, and he owns Breitbart. So what do you call a paper owned by powerful people in the government, when the government calls it to tell it what to write? You call it the government’s propoganda arm.
But we aren’t a dictatorship, and Bannon is not in charge. So we can assume that some of the motivation for the article represents Bannon’s reaction to what’s going on, not Trump’s. From that perspective, the tone of the article is very revealing. Bannon is clearly pissed about the recent budget. This article reads to me like Bannon flexing his muscles against the direction the governance is going. On the heels of reporting that he’s losing influence to Priebus, and the surge to prominence of Jared Kushner, this article perhaps offers insight into the inner political currents of the oval office: Bannon literally wants the wall, and is applying leverage to try to get it; other people, apparently with more leverage, are instead compromising with the Democrats and not just a little. It’s interesting to wonder why those people have leverage, a theme to which I’ll return in a moment.
So try reading this article from the perspective of framing for the 2018 elections, and things get even more interesting – and perhaps even more unsettling. Consider these snippets: “President Ryan and quasi-Speaker Mark Meadows leading the way on major negotiations.” “[Is Ralph Spicer] more loyal to Trump or Ryan?” “Not sure we are better off with Hillary or Paul Ryan.” “President Ryan is making liberals blush with gratitude.” Breitbart is positioning the discussion to allow Trump to campaign against his own party. These are all unambiguous shots aimed at wrestling Ryan into line, and a clear threat or even a prelude to motivating their audience against him. Breitbart is ranked at #184 for US “News and Media” sites with ~120MM daily visits (vs. FoxNews which is #42, with 250MM daily visits). That’s not an idle threat.
So now let’s return to the final theme. As I mentioned a paragraph back, other people, apparently with more leverage, are instead compromising with the Democrats, and not just a little. It’s interesting to wonder why those people have leverage. So where does that leverage come from? Remember, the Republican congress has accomplished very little. The ACHA went down in flames, and the second attempt didn’t make it to the floor. They have passed almost no legislation – though what little they have passed will caused significant damage. They control both houses and the presidency, so why have they been so ineffective? The answer must be that the howling activism awakened by Trump’s victory, the phone calls so many people are making, the hostile town halls, are having an impact. I think the liberal electorate is waking up, and it’s scaring the crap out of the Republicans.