On Wednesday morning, as America rolled over in bed, bleary-eyed, to check its phone, it learned the news that quite a few things had gone bump in the night at Donald Trump’s campaign headquarters. Stephen Bannon, executive chairman of Breitbart News, was the campaign’s new CEO. Pollster Kellyanne Conway was now Trump’s campaign manager.
Bannon’s onboarding has sucked up most of the attention. Breitbart News has been sympathetic to the Trump cause, and the idea that the campaign and the media outlet would now be inextricably linked seemed at once shocking and wholly predictable, a move of Berlusconian logic.
What seems sure now is that the Trump campaign will become more Breitbart-y — invested in the conspiratorial narratives once confined to the nuttier parts of the internet — but Breitbart has been riding the Trump wave for some time. The synergistic political-media marriage that went public this week seems, if you look back at the numbers, almost destined for this meet cute.
In October 2014, before “Trump for president” was a glimmer in our collective eye, Breitbart News ranked 27th in the general news category of websites, with about 8 million visitors, according to comScore data. That same month, Pew Research Center released a study on the political fragmentation of American Media, including a survey on news-consumption habits. Only 3 percent of respondents got their news from Breitbart, and 79 percent of those people had “political values that are right-of-center.” Nearly half of Breitbart readers (48 percent) called themselves “consistently conservative” (only 9 percent of respondents in the overall survey described themselves thusly and by comparison, only 19 percent of Fox News’ audience was “consistently conservative.) The site, then as now, was seen as a go-to for a vertiginously right-slanted point of view on …