Donald Trump’s reelection campaign manager and magically impotent “digital wizard” Brad Parscale has gone to that big dumping ground for washed-up Trump lackeys in the sky.
Trump’s catastrophic handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic; the implosion of the economy; myriad scandals; and threats to send the military to shoot protesters against police racism and brutality have made four more years a tough sell to voters. Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, coasting largely on his reputation, is crushing the president in his treasured polls (some showing a double-digit lead). So heads are rolling, sort of: Parscale will now be demoted to senior campaign adviser and return to a digital strategy role.
His replacement, Bill Stepien, is best known for helping to orchestrate Bridgegate, the 2014 New Jersey political scandal in which Governor Chris Christie’s team colluded to create massive traffic on the George Washington Bridge. The incident is widely perceived to have destroyed Christie’s career, so Trump really couldn’t have made a better choice.
Parscale has staked his reputation around 2016, when he led the Trump campaign’s efforts to flood Facebook and other social media sites with ads; he has insisted that Facebook microtargeting as well as direct support from Facebook staffers embedded in the campaign was central to Trump’s election. Pandering to Trump’s hardcore supporters with deranged ads gives the campaign a major advantage on Facebook, as the company bases its ad billing in part on how shareable, likable, or attention-grabbing content is. Since then, Facebook has been further sucked into a world of pain over its chickenshit election advertising policies (which allow politicians to advertise lies with impunity) and Parscale’s profile has exploded.
A switch of flacks is functionally meaningless considering Trump’s record is the problem, not his messaging, and his son-in-law Jared Kushner reportedly runs the show anyhow. But Parscale has been on a remarkable spree of unforced errors, as well as served as a wastebasket for the president’s accumulated fury at his tanking approval ratings and poll numbers. According to CNN, sources said that Trump had screamed at Parscale at a conference call in late April over unflattering polls in the wake of a press briefing in which Trump suggested injecting bleach might cure the coronavirus. Trump also reportedly threatened to sue Parscale personally.
Later, Parscale claimed that a million people had reserved tickets for a June rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and touted it as a huge event, building an overflow stage for the occasion. It turned out that the “digital wizard” was duped by one of the oldest tricks in the book: brigading. Those hundreds of thousands of reservations were overwhelmingly driven by TikTok teens and other trolls who didn’t plan to attend, but filled out bogus forms requesting tickets, and other no-shows. The inflated reservation count may have tricked the campaign into complacency when it needed to be aggressively phone-banking potential attendees. A paltry 6,200 people showed up for the rally in the 19,000-seat arena. Parscale blamed imaginary anti-fascist protesters for blocking entry to the event, but the half-assed explanation just added to the embarrassment.
The campaign also had attendees sign waivers freeing it from liability in case of a coronavirus outbreak at the rally. Local health officials later confirmed it had likely helped drive a surge in cases in Tulsa.
The campaign also purchased Facebook ads with Holocaust iconography in June. Parscale doubled down on the dubious explanation the ad’s use of a highly specific symbol the Nazis forced political prisoners to wear on a badge concentration camps to highlight Trump’s attacks on antifa was just a coincidence. (The intent of the ads may have been to cause a controversy.) Per CBS, Parscale also drew heat for supposedly wasting too much time at his home in Florida instead of Trump campaign HQ in Arlington, Virginia, and another report indicated he didn’t actually manage to vote for Trump in the 2016 elections.
Finally, there’s the issue of Parscale giving every appearance that he was redirecting hundreds of thousands in campaign cash to promote himself. Parscale has very obviously tried to become a conservative celebrity via his attachment to the Trump campaign. In late June it was reported that the Trump campaign had spent $325,000 promoting Parscale’s personal Facebook page, not to mention millions of dollars for services rendered by Parscale’s firm. According to CNN, his lavish personal spending habits (including a Ferrari) had begun to piss off the rest of the campaign team.
Campaign staff largely found out about Parscale’s demotion via an announcement Trump made on Facebook, according to CNN. On Thursday, Parscale tweeted a Bible quote on persecution in what appeared to be some kind of mangled response to his detractors.
The Trump campaign also claimed on Thursday that Parscale had not actually been demoted, but had rather yadda yadda yadda, TK TK, who cares.
Inbound dead man walking Stepien will be Trump’s fifth campaign manager, following Corey Lewandowski (fired), Paul Manafort (serving a seven-year prison term), Kellyanne Conway (reputationally bankrupt), and Parscale. Worst of luck to you following in those footsteps, jackass.