On June 16, two days after his 69th birthday, Donald Trump announced his presidential campaign with hopes to “Make America Great Again” (a phrase coined by Ronald Reagan that Trump has trademarked despite every politician in modern history saying some version of this sentiment). Since his declaration, Trump has been on a crusade of sorts to disrupt the entire mainstream political process through his unapologetic, boorish rhetoric. He has called Mexican immigrants degenerates, which he tried to clean up with the Hispanic version of “I love black people, I have black friends!” He also questioned Sen. John McCain’s bravery, he publicly gave out Sen. Lindsey Graham’s phone number, he does not like Megyn Kelly, Rosie O’Donnell or Black women. The list goes on and on.
But to be honest, and maybe it’s a millennial thing, I’m entirely apathetic to his campaign. I have zero faith in him and every Republican candidate, and no one except Bernie Sanders is truly revolutionary on the Democratic side either. Even with Sanders I am keeping my guard up because, well, he’s a politician. Politicians, news anchors, talk radio hosts disguised as experts and the like have all bombarded us with images and prose warning us of the looming peril and destruction of America. In this 24 hour news age, everywhere you turn there’s another breaking news story, another controversy, another sign that the order and structure of social and political life is falling apart. So it should come as no surprise that I and many others in my position just do not give much of a damn to a lot of things because we are numb to it all. I mean, it is really depressing.
Which is why the popularity of reality television is both plausible and terrifying. Like much of entertainment, reality shows serve as an escape from real life. The heightened storylines, drama and gossip on these shows take the viewer away from the mundaneness of their lives. But these shows could not be any further from reality. Reality television is a combination of scripted drama you will see in a fictional shows, the fly on the wall filming technique (cinéma vérité) of documentary filmmaking and the seemingly unpredictable nature you get from watching sports. The best of these shows are able to combine all of these elements to creative pretty addictive, but very frugally produced television. After all, ask Donald Trump, who up until this year had two of the most successful running reality game shows (The Apprentice/Celebrity Apprentice) in history.
Donald Trump’s campaign is fascinating to observe because it plays out like a reality show. He is the wild card of the cast: throwing out outlandish statements, “shocking” the establishment with his success in the polls (which some people believe are not real; they are just manufactured to add to the drama) and creating an obsessive hysteria with the national news media. With every new Trump story, the GOP candidates are forced to respond to him so they can keep their name in the headlines and on voters’ minds.
However, what makes his campaign most like a reality show is that it is not real. I do not for a second believe he is running because he thinks he is the best man to be president, nor do I believe he has America’s best interest at heart. Remember, he is still the man who aligned with and helped lead the birther movement, professing his doubts and disbeliefs about President Obama citizenry, place of birth and religious affiliation. This continues to be all about him and his orgasmic urge to feed his ego. Just watching him during the Republican presidential debate on Fox News, you can tell he got an egotistical rush by just standing there, making the other candidates squirm and hearing the crowd oh and ah. And I’m not mad at him; it’s not his fault, we created this monster. Generation after generation have collectively been asleep at the wheel and allowed egocentrism, narcissism and capitalistic greed to be the parameters by which success is measured in this world. And that is kind of what we have become. “Listen to the kids, bro!” as Kanye West said. Listen to our music, watch the shows and movies we gravitate towards, look at which celebrities people put on a pedestal over others, listen to how we communicate. We are the Me Generation and we are generally cool with that.
So I am kind of disinterested of what becomes of the Republicans over the next few months. Several political pundits have predicted that the Republican Party could go the way of the nineteenth century American Whigs. But I mostly believe that things will straighten out and Trump will fall out of favor with people. So to those who have been panicking over the last weeks or months over the possibility of Trump becoming the sole Republican nominee this time next year, relax your bones, sit back and enjoy the show like Me.