Donald J. Trump officially announced that he was running for president on June 16th, 2015. Speaking from Trump Tower in New York City, the then newly-announced candidate opened with a no-substance quip about the supposed idiocy and gutlessness of the other candidates saying, “How are they going to beat ISIS? I don’t think it’s gonna happen.” He then immediately transitioned into a more somber topic—the state of the country—when he said, “Our country is in serious trouble. We don’t have victories anymore. We used to have victories, but we don’t have them. When was the last time anybody saw us beating, let’s say, China in a trade deal?”
At the time, many of us keeping up with the news thought it was a fruitless run for the presidency—one which would eventually turn into nothing more than the punchline of a bad joke—but, nearly a year later, the Trump campaign is stronger than ever and Trump continues to make vague content-less speeches about making America “great again.” It’s gone from joke to nightmare.
The interesting thing is that, despite the fact that only 30 percent of the American public sees Trump as favorable and 63 percent find him unfavorable (repulsive), according to Gallup, the highly unpopular businessman-turned-politician has garnered 736 of the 1,237 delegates needed to win the Republican nomination; but what’s even more interesting is how enthralled the world is with the man, albeit with confusion and morbid curiosity. But, there’s an even deeper reason for that interest and it’s quite important: Trump is the personification of everything wrong with the political system.
The usual candidates in presidential elections follow the guidelines, apologize for any missteps, take stances on the trending topics and keep up their appearances, but not Trump. He couldn’t care less about the guidelines, as illustrated by his refusal to honor the pledge he made to support the Republican nominee for president if he didn’t get the nomination. He never apologizes for his blunders (in fact, he quite often celebrates them, such was the case when he defended his insulting comments about women by saying that he never intended to run for office and therefore didn’t know to censor himself). His opinions are often either so vague that no one understands his real position or they’re so offensive that he ostracizes anyone that isn’t brainless or they’re inconsistent enough to give people headaches. And he definitely doesn’t care about appearances, evidenced by the fact that he doesn’t kowtow to public opinion or political correctness; and perhaps, these things are what make him a blessing.
Since the 1960’s, the news media has continued to lose its charm and reliability as it has segued from fact-based journalism straight into entertainment and increasing absurdity. Despite slogans like Fox News’ “Fair & Balanced” and CNN’s “The Most Trusted Name in News,” mass media (especially televised “news networks”) are anything but fair, balanced and trusted. Yet, they continue to push the illusion—their not-so-secret devotion to ratings and profits, as well as their compromises on investigative journalism and reporting notwithstanding. Fox News and MSNBC being the two biggest culprits of entertainment news.
Politicians have always been seen as untrustworthy, covering their tracks with false apologies and doublespeak, but they’ve pretty much played the same game as the media: moving consistently and rapidly from honest and intelligent politics to the realm of mediocrity and lunacy; and they’ve managed to stay in power because of the public’s short-term memory and tendency to be rallied by impassioned speeches (even if accompanied by crocodile smiles) about bringing America back from the brink of collapse, stopping this crisis or that, creating jobs and once again putting someone sane in the White House.
The two are entangled in a never-ending feedback loop. Politicians do or say something interesting or stupid and the media covers it with a short report and then explodes with weeks of commentary and debate from pseudo-experts like Chris Matthews (MSNBC) and Bill O’Reilly (Fox News) and their numerous correspondents and pundits; and then the media influences what politicians talk about. But, the people also play an important role in this game, because we tell the media—in the form of ratings—what we want to see in the news; and unfortunately it’s more often than not something of little significance.
Donald Trump, no matter how uncouth and ignorant he may be, has not only unraveled the illusion, but emerged rancid and smiling from its depths—a glaring parody of the ridiculousness of the media, the political system and the American public. He represents the essence of the politician and the phony news media and has surfaced as king of the ill-informed.
Trump’s gift to us is an unadulterated look past the deception of politics, the media and our own self-righteousness.
“We know that the news media is biased and politicians talk bullshit and the news and the politicians know we know it,” says Evan Puschak, host and producer of The Nerdwriter YouTube channel. “Still they go through the formalities. It is exactly formalities like this that can keep a system alive longer than it needs to be. So, maybe we need someone like Donald Trump to pull down that last layer of credibility.”