Hey, you know what would make a great reality show? A presidential campaign.
Think about it. You get 17 guys, or mostly guys, and you get them all to beat up on each other, and then one by one, they get voted off the island/don’t get a rose/place fifth in the Iowa caucus. The show lasts for a year or so, and the winner gets to lose to Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Put in that context, doesn’t Donald Trump make a whole lot more sense?
Too many people in the media are covering Donald Trump as if he were a presidential candidate. I mean, OK, yes, technically, he is a presidential candidate. But his claim to fame is not politics. It’s reality television. So he’s running his campaign as if it were the 15th season of “The Apprentice.”
Say what you will about “The Apprentice,” but it could be enormously entertaining, especially when people behaved like obnoxious buffoons.
In 2011, I didn’t miss an episode of “Celebrity Apprentice” with a cast that included Gary Busey, who was nuts, and rock star Meat Loaf, who was also nuts. I’ll never forget when Meat Loaf launched into an expletive-laden, heavily bleeped tirade against Mr. Busey when Mr. Loaf thought Gary had stolen his paint supplies for a team art project. And when it turned out that Meat Loaf was looking in the wrong bag and it was all a misunderstanding, his “apology” for flipping out was, “Do your (bleep) artwork and get out of my (bleep) face!”
Wow. Suddenly Donald Trump’s squabble with Megyn Kelly doesn’t look bad at all, does it?
The mistake people are making in evaluating Trump’s current political success is that they are measuring him against the standards of a presidential campaign, where saying stupid and inflammatory things can get you into serious trouble. But this is campaign-as-reality-show, and in reality shows, stupid and inflammatory things are the signposts on the road to ratings glory. Trump even has “You’re fired!” as his own personal catchphrase. What’s Jeb Bush’s catchphrase? (I think “You’ve been Bush-whacked!” has real potential, but it still needs work.)
Consider that the first Republican debate was one of the highest-rated cable programs in the history of television. Why? Do you really think it was because everyone had suddenly taken a high-minded interest in the future of our republic? Or did everyone just want to see Donald Trump’s head explode on live TV?
From the get-go, he did not disappoint. When asked the first question about nasty epithets he’s hurled at women, Trump’s response was “only Rosie O’Donnell,” which, while not true, was a perfect reality TV response.
Meat Loaf would have been proud.
Trump fans say their hero is “a breath of fresh air” and “someone who speaks his mind.” And they’re right. The fact that what he says is either ignorant, vicious or both, or that it often directly contradicts something he has said before, doesn’t matter at all. His supporters don’t care about the content of what he says; they’re just impressed that he’s reckless enough to say it.
And can you really blame them? The Bachelorette’s got nothing on this. When have the Kardashians ever been half as entertaining as Donald Trump?
It may be sort of cute now, but what makes for great TV does not necessarily correlate with a great way to pick a president.
For my part, I think that the sooner America changes the channel, the better.
Jim Bennett is a recovering actor, theater producer and politico, and he writes about pop culture and politics at his blog, stallioncornell.com.