MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Steve Bannon’s Once and Future Website Warns That Trump Could End up Like Schwarzenegger (UPDATED)

While Arnold dings Donald on Charlottesville, Breitbart readies for “WAR.”

As the Twitter kids say, #ItBegins. First came news that controversial nationalist Steve Bannon was finally being shown the White House door. Next came widespread follow-up musing on how dangerous Bannon might become to President Donald Trump from the outside (including juicy quotes like, "If he leaves, it's the French Revolution"). Then came this ominous tweet from Joel B. Pollak, senior editor at large at the organization Bannon once headed and may soon return to, Breitbart News:

Arriveth the first salvo:

It begins. ||| Breitbart NewsBreitbart News

In the article, Pollak arguest that Bannon's exit "may turn out to be the beginning of the end for the Trump administration, the moment Donald Trump became Arnold Schwarzenegger." More:

When he took office in 2003 as Governor of California, "The Terminator" carried the hopes of conservatives in the Golden State, who saw him as a vehicle for their ideas, even if he was not a doctrinaire conservative himself. The faltering California Republican Party looked to Schwarzenegger to reverse its long-term decline, and Republicans elsewhere saw his success as a model from which they could learn as they courted moderate, swing-state voters.

But after struggling with intense media criticism, and after losing a key referendum on reforms to state government, Schwarzenegger gave up on his agenda, and abandoned the political base that had brought him into office. He re-invented himself as a liberal, embracing policies such as California's controversial cap-and-trade program, which had zero effect on climate change but has chased businesses, jobs, and middle-class families out of the state.

Politically, Schwarzenegger's gambit was a success. He won re-election in 2006. But his second term was a disaster. When he left office in 2010, the state was in a financial shambles and the California Republican Party had begun a decline from which it still has not recovered.

If that argument sounds familiar, it might be because I made one similar to it not long after Trump took his oath of office, albeit without the paeans to Bannon ("a self-made man, and not a Washington climber…master strategist, the man who turned a failing campaign around in August 2016 and led one of the most remarkable come-from-behind victories in political history," etc.). Sample from my column:

Trump and Schwarzenegger have even more in common than hosting the same television show, taking the same unusual career path from celebrity to executive office, and surviving the same type of sexual allegations.

Each man was a rank outsider in the field he would come to dominate: the bodybuilder with a thick accent in Hollywood, the Queens hustler in Manhattan real estate and high society. Each would live their lives surrounded by liberal Democrats, including sometimes at home. And each exceeded skeptics' expectations at nearly every step, in large part due to a conscious cultivation of consumer fan bases.

I might also add, each is a Grade-A narcissist and competitive monster (I say the latter as a compliment), which means that they just can't pass up an opportunity to lash out at one another. Including Arnold, this week:

Where does the Trump-Schwarzenegger feud and comparison go from here? Who knows! But here are three preliminary observations:

1) Trump doesn't do humility. In order to execute the kind of heel-turn Schwarzenegger managed after 2004, it helps to be able to convincingly say, as Arnold essentially did, "The people have spoken, and I have listened to them. I was wrong." Whether it's his training as an actor, or just a West Coast/East Coast thing, Schwarzenegger can pull it off.

Trump, on the very few occasions during his political career which he as even hinted at any error, has looked like the protagonist in a hostage video.

He did not like this cover. ||| ReasonReason2) Trumpism is a movement; Arnoldism never was. Schwarzenegger was a popular celebrity who was fluent in politics at a time when incumbent California governor Gray Davis was widely reviled, and the rest of the Golden State's political class (including the GOP, which, contra Pollak, was already moribund before Arnold went to Sacramento) was serially coughing up duds. But he didn't represent some new or reformulated bloc of voters finding their collective voice at the same time.

Trump, on the other hand, has been at the center of something new and large since long before Steve Bannon joined his team. Politicians, even experienced ones, who get caught up in movements larger than themselves (see Howard Dean in 2003-04, or Ron Paul's two rEVOLutions, or Bernie Sanders last election), get changed by the experience, including in directions the candidates themselves didn't intend to go. (Look at the way Trump's views on Syrian refugees evolved last fall over the course of just one month.) Such movements become life-altering experiences for the personalities at the center, making it harder for them to capriciously abandon core tenets.

Donald Trump has always been a mercantilist, nationalist, law-and-order type; even if his full-throated immigration-restrictionism is of more recent vintage, the leaked transcript of his phone conversation with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto revealed a man almost pathetically scared of his own riled-up base.

The biggest issue I could see Trump selling out on—and it's a big one—is foreign policy interventionism. With Bannon out the door, after butting heads with the various military brass within the administration, the chances of Trump being a reliable intervention-skeptic seems even more remote than before.

3) Bannon and Trump still need each other. Most Trumpworld pugilists who've been bounced from his inner orbit—Corey Lewandowski, Roger Stone, etc.—have remained valuable allies off the government payroll. Bannon may harbor dreams of a new anti-Trump nationalistic populism, but the United States is in thrall to the cult of the presidency, and it's precisely in the nationalist/populist base that the president locates his most passionate support. A war of words between the two men and their respective organizations would most likely just factionalize and shrink the existing bloc of America-Firsters.

UPDATE: Looks like I might have been onto something with #3 here:

Photo Credit: ATTN

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • DEATFBIRSECIA||

    Trumpism is a movement.

    A fucking bowel movement.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Socialism is movement.

    A fucking bowel movement.

  • DEATFBIRSECIA||

    Agreed.

  • Calidissident||

    I think he's under the impression that disliking Trump means you're a socialist SJW.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    No, its just a catchy way to discuss all the bowel movements.

  • DEATFBIRSECIA||

    Washing down a bran muffin with a quad breve is a movement.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Coincidentally, quad breve is a good name for a socialist movement.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Glad you are willing to admit that SJWs are socialists.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Social Justice Warrior-ing is a movement

    A fucking bowel movement.

  • DEATFBIRSECIA||

    Correct.

  • ALM||

    So is Trumpism

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Jesus, he is baaaaack.

  • Trigger Warning||

    I really wish it were true that Jesus were back. :(

  • DEATFBIRSECIA||

    He is!

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    Jesus would take care of those neo-Nazis in no time at all.

  • Cy||

    Every spring! Who else is going to pick all of those crops? Kids legally can't any more. Not that their parents want to peel them away from their tablets to do some actual work.

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    As the Twitter kids say, #ItBegins.

    Sure thing, grandpa.

    And maybe the Breitbart editor was hashtagging Wayne Allen Root. ...Nah, not even Breitbart has sunk so low as to bring Root into their organization.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    We'll know the war between Trump and Breitbart has gotten really bad when one of them breaks out #DONDERO

  • Jgalt1975||

    Speaking of which, where is Dondero these days?

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    The biggest issue I could see Trump selling out on—and it's a big one—is foreign policy interventionism. With Bannon out the door, after butting heads with the various military brass within the administration, the chances of Trump being a reliable intervention-skeptic seems even more remote than before.

    My first thought as well, so I deem this good analysis.

    Yaaaaay, the generals are in charge.

  • Trigger Warning||

    It sucks so bad. You could say it sucks the Root.

  • Red Rocks Baiting n Inciting||

    It should be said that Obama came into office as an intervention skeptic as well, and sold out on that once the Arab Spring began. The chance to "win" a war seems to be an delicious temptation for Presidents no matter which party they belong to.

    It's also rather telling that none of the brass in charge, most of them having been officers since before Desert Storm even began, haven't yet figured out that 25+ years of making things exponentially worse in the Middle East might be a good indication that pulling out entirely would be better for the country's military readiness in the long run than trying to fix the problems that they and their predecessors helped create in the first place.

  • ||

    Our last six presidents came into office as "intervention skeptics."

    It's almost enough to make one think that the President doesn't have all that much influence over foreign policy.

  • SIV||

    It's more than enough.

  • Liberty =><= Equality||

    Interesting definition of "intervention skeptic", seeing as how he wanted to ramp up the war in Afghanistan and send troops to Darfur.

  • LibertarianJRT||

    Thank you for remembering that he wanted to drome strike "Pakistan" (said in that pretentious accent) as part of the AFG escalation. Skepticism of war only applied to Iraq. And i thinkl it was likely calculated forvotes and vote block securing.

    "Whatever happened to the anti-war left?" the saying went for 8 years.

  • Brandybuck||

    Another Arnold? Arnold served two terms as governor. Is Brietbart saying that Bannon's ouster heralds Trump's 2020 win?

  • Red Rocks Baiting n Inciting||

    It will be interesting to see if Trump even bothers to follow through with his implied threats that companies like Amazon are going to get hit with anti-monopoly suits, or pushes for that 40%+ tax rate. Rumor has it that Bannon was the one behind those.

  • Liberty Lover||

    I don't think that is what he means. I took it he meant that Trump is about to have a child with his Mexican housekeeper!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    "Remember when I said I would Twitter-flame you last? #ILied"

  • GILMORE™||

    ""controversial nationalist""

    Its like a white nationalist, but with terrible skin

  • GILMORE™||

    So, has anyone @ Reason been covering Nick Sarwarks twitter meltdowns? Or was it covered in the 5th column this week? just curious whether there's any hot-take on the buffet-of-hotness

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    O__O

    *nods, pretends he knows things*

  • GILMORE™||

    He basically spent the week accusing people of being crypto nazis, got into a public fight with Tom Woods, then started tweeting SJW lectures by john scalzi at people. this was around the same time the LP praised North Korea's policy on weed'

    basically, it was the digital version of a fat man stripping @ the convention

  • Liberty =><= Equality||

    Running two two-term governors really increased the LP's respectability, didn't it?

  • GILMORE™||

    It seems they've pivoted from a "you can't please everyone" stance, to a "please absolutely no one" posture.

  • ||

    He must get invited to a lot of cocktail parties or else why do it?

  • SIV||

    Sarwark seems very cosmopolitan.

  • SIV||

    For a used car dealer.

  • LibertarianJRT||

    Florida LP activists i know who are aligned with the alt-right (defined as being anti-SJW tothe point of accusing anyone they disagreed vehemently with as being SJW and associated with Antifa) are very anti-Sarwark. They were actively plotting against him when I exited the scene due to workload.

  • Liberty =><= Equality||

    LP internal politics has always been about being the big fish in a little pond.

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    Wait a tick, there isn't a twitter meltdown in the world that I care about.

  • ||

    There's the spirit!

  • GILMORE™||

    maybe there was a bit of a misread on this subject:

    Bannon Says He's 'Going to War for Trump' After White House Exit'

    Ousted White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon returned to the conservative Breitbart News website on Friday and said he'll be "going to war" for President Donald Trump, vowing to intensify from the outside the fight he has waged against opponents of his brand of populist conservatism.

    "If there's any confusion out there, let me clear it up: I'm leaving the White House and going to war for Trump against his opponents -- on Capitol Hill, in the media, and in corporate America," Bannon said Friday in an interview with Bloomberg News hours after his departure was announced.
  • GILMORE™||

    oops. i missed the update bit

  • Tom Bombadil||

    "I'm leaving the White House and going to war for Trump against his opponents"

    And changing his name to Gurney Halleck.

  • Cogito Ergo Cogito||

    More like Thufir Hawat.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Wikipedia says of Joshua Green

    Green began his journalism career in 1995 as an editor at the satirical weekly The Onion.

    You just can't make this stuff up.

  • Trigger Warning||

    Actually, you can.

  • Liberty =><= Equality||

    Schwarzenegger 2.0? Does that mean he is really a pool of liquid metal that can reshape himself into anybody he gropes?

  • Liberty =><= Equality||

    HASTA LA VISTA, BANNON

  • DenverJ||

    Arnold is from Austria. You know who else was from Austria?

  • DenverJ||

    Arnold is from Austria. You know who else was from Austria?

  • DenverJ||

    That's right: Austrian squirrels.

  • lap83||

    Maria Von Trapp?

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    Half of our ideological forebears?

  • Liberty =><= Equality||

    Mel Gibson

  • ColoradoKook||

    Helmut Höflehner?

  • Fk_Censorship||

    Mozart?

  • Len Bias||

    On my smartphone, the headline reads: "Steve Bannon's Once and Future Website Warns That Trump Could End up Like Matt Welch." I hope so, I'd take president Welch over all the previous ones in my lifetime.

  • ||

    Trump doesn't do humility. Yeh because the last guy was totes humble for eight years.

    Re Conan the Barbarian: "But his second term was a disaster."

    Dems the risks when you compromise your principles.

    Never run after a guy or girl kids. You're bound to get hurt.

    Rufus knows. He imparts wisdom for you all.

  • mysmartstuffs||

    "Remember when I said I would Twitter-flame you last? #ILied"
    My recent post: Consistent Sales System Review
    My recent post: Pixalogo Review

  • حظك اليوم||

    nice article , thanks ..

  • Sigivald||

    I'm old enough to remember back when Bannon was "obviously the real brains running the whole show and controlling Trump".

    (Then again, I also remember the narrative of Bannon being some sort of white supremacist being made up from whole cloth while I watched, so...)

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online