The New York Times has an excellent dissection today of the Trump presidency as a reality TV show that has managed to set up shop at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, written by its chief TV critic, James Poniewozik. His op-ed digs down into the props and story line of “The Apprentice” and how its tone evolved over its 14-year lifespan. He places it nicely within the ecosystem of post-Survivor entertainment and the particular celebrity culture it spawned. Nice job, and read it for yourself.
But there’s something missing. Yes, that’s who Trump is and how he operates, but he could never have gotten to where he is without cutting deals with people whose personas are light years away from his—the plutocracy, particularly in its financial and resource extraction modes, the Republican Party apparatus in the think tanks and lobby shops in and around Washington, and the Christian Right, with its fixation on the courts as a bulwark against cultural change. There is a real, which is to say a real real, side to the Trump presidency, and it takes the form of tax cuts, regulatory rollbacks and judgeship appointments. This differentiates it from reality TV, which is only itself.
And so we are left with an obvious response: stop rebroadcasting the reality TV stuff. Leave it alone. Don’t fixate on the bluster, viciousness, racism or obscenity of his tweets and rallies. Rather, examine the real real viciousness, racism and obscenity built into the policies of the people who use Trump as an avatar, an attention-grabbing figurehead who enables them to hold and use power. Yes, I’ve said this before, but it’s still the way to go.