Saturday April 09, 2016
The Reality TV Candidate
Again, from Gabriel Sherman's New York Magazine piece, “Operation Trump: Inside the most unorthodox campaign in political history”:
One factor that's been particularly crucial to Trump's rise may be the way that reality television, cable news, and talk radio have shaped the culture's sense of “reality” — in other words, its relationship to truth. If Ronald Reagan showed us that Hollywood was good training for politics, Trump is proving that the performance skills one learns in the more modern entertainment arenas are even more useful. Talk and reality shows are improvised operations, mastered by larger-than-life personalities expert at distorting and provoking, shifting and commandeering attention.
Even before this, I kept thinking of Reagan: how often Trump, like Reagan, gets it wrong, and how much, as with Reagan, it doesn't matter. Carl Icahn will be Trump's Sec. of Treasury; well, that's news to Icahn. Paul Ryan keeps calling; news to Ryan. Sherman adds the following almost as an aside, knowing it should be devastating, knowing it isn't at all:
“I don't spend much money,” [Trump] told me. “In New Hampshire, I spent $2 million” — actually $3.7 million — “Bush spent $48 million” — actually $36.1 million — “I came in first in a landslide, he came in sixth” — actually fourth. “Who do you want as your president?”
Reagan was the first to master this type of “big picture”/“wrong facts” successful political campaign: trees causing more pollution than cars; praising events that only happened in movies; trickle-down economics; ketchup as a vegetable. Like in a movie, facts didn't matter; feeling did. He also played the white race card over and over again. (See: “welfare queen.”)
Trump, of course, is expanding upon all of these—but with reality-TV loutishness rather than “B”-movie Hollywood glamour.
Interestingly, Sherman sees a Trump almost wistful about his reality-TV days: wishing he could go back to them, wishing he could stop this crazy thing. He's still in the game, though; and if he's in the game, he has to play to win. It's as if Trump, too, is hoping to wake from the nightmare he's created.