Will Donald Trump’s ability to create outrage and to express angry outrage win him a second term? Trump has been an outrage creating and expressing machine for years since before he was President.
And from the start of his term Trump’s chief concern has been to play almost exclusively to his base unlike most American Presidents who worked to expand their initial coalitions after getting into office. But Trump has been President of the base, by the base and for the base.
Could it be that by sparking and expressing angry outrage Trump could win again, with an help from top-rated news network Fox News, GOP voting suppression and a little help from his (foreign) friends? And why is it that Trump seemingly tops one outrage with another?
Martin Longman, who has a great record in spotting and predicting trends, gives his take on his site Progress Pond:
Trump is probably expressing a genuine belief that he’s entitled hold office without limit, like his pal Vladimir Putin. But as performative art, he knows it works in the same way that Al Bundy dressing in drag and reading pornographic magazines worked for the ratings of Married…With Children. People love it because it upsets the prigs.
Yet, no one ever mistook situational comedies for real life, and ultimately the true merit of breaking Victorian restrictions on television was discovered to be the increased realism it could bring to hour-long dramas and crime shows. Reality television was a nod to this development. The audience was no longer satisfied with transparently artificial worlds like the Cheers barroom or Frasier’s apartment. They wanted the lines blurred so that the outrage and titillation seemed as if it could be happening in real life.
Trump understood the genre and he excelled at providing that kind of content with his Apprentice shows. He uses the same approach in politics. It doesn’t matter that there’s no chance that Mexico will pay for a border wall or that he’ll put Hillary Clinton in jail or that he’ll succeed in changing the constitution so he can remain in office beyond eight years. The debate over these things is happening in real life, and that gives them just enough reality to satisfy the fans.
But Trump’s presidency isn’t a diversionary piece of entertainment. It has actual consequences, including 200,000 victims of COVID-19, many of whom didn’t believe the threat was real because the president told them it wasn’t real.
Looking back, this shouldn’t surprise us. The Apprentice convinced millions that Trump was a savvy and successful businessman, rather than a guy who took a giant inheritance and ran one venture after another into legal problems and bankruptcy. Why wouldn’t the people who were duped by the reality television show be duped by the phony presidency? And why wouldn’t fans of the first show remain fans of the second?