Reality television, like the real housewives series, appears to be having more influence on voter’s through processes than anyone may have previously realized.
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It’s the only way to explain how anyone could think Trump won last night’s debate.
Reality television is truly a 21st Century invention. And, Trump seems to understand the game better than most.
Watch any of the “Real Housewives” shows. It’s clear to see how winners and losers are judged.
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It’s a contest to see which celebrity housewife can be the loudest, most obnoxious, most belligerent and most arrogant of the group.
When shouting is no longer enough, they resort to shrill screaming, humiliating put-downs, hair-pulling, throwing glasses of wine or even physical violence to assert their point of view.
The display obviously appeals to our more primitive urges.
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The equivalent in nature is troupe of chimpanzees, howling, screaming, stomping and pounding the ground to establish group dominance.
Climb the family Hominidae tree to Homo sapiens, and it’s much the same these days in reality television world.
By those standards, it’s possible to say Trump was the winner.
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The loudest most obnoxious Beverly Hills housewife usually gets the most camera time, audience attention–and highest salary. The worst thing you can be is boring.
So it was with Trump.
Those who judge him successful in the debate are doing so because of his bombast, bluster, rudeness and petulance. Probably, in part, because he’s a man, that’s being interpreted as a sign of strength and forcefulness.
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One pundit even claimed that Trump was “passionate” compared to a wooden and wonkish Clinton.
Indeed, Clinton is a career politician, a creature of bureaucracy.
She’s a master of public policy and a denizen of long-winded Congressional hearings, as she proved during her 11-hour Benghazi marathon. The ability to muster facts–and obfuscate when necessary–are the keys to that kingdom.
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But as foreign as her world is to Trump, the world of reality television is just as foreign to her. She was clearly the neophyte last night, and it showed.
In reality television world, facts don’t matter. When both candidates are perceived as liars, whoever shouts loudest and is the most overbearing wins the point, whether they’re truthful or not.
On most issues last night, Trump was not. In times past, his performance would have been so disqualifying, the election would have been all but over on the spot. But these are not normal times.
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Maybe in the next debate, each candidate should be given a glass of wine to toss.
In an oddly weird way, last night’s debate harks back to the 1960 election. Democrat John F. Kennedy met Republican Richard Nixon in the first ever televised debate.
In polls afterward, those who listened on radio, clearly thought Nixon had won. But television watchers said Kennedy was the clear victor.
He was handsome, debonair, glib and charismatic in front of the camera. Nixon commanded the facts, but came off looking venal, nervous and sweaty, like an unwelcome uncle.
Kennedy set the standard for televised debates for decades afterward.
Glib, charismatic candidates like Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush easily bested wonkish rivals like Jimmy Carter, Gorge H.W. Bush and Al Gore.
But it’s clear from last night’s debate, in the era of reality television, the rules of the game have change again.
No candidate has ever played so fast and loose with the facts as Trump.
No candidate has ever come off so unprepared, buffoonish and incoherent on key issues like foreign policy and nuclear weapons.
He wasn’t charismatic, so much as he was brutish and bullying.
Yet, Trump skated through the debate on bluster, bravado and demeaning putdowns, just like he’s skated through six bankruptcies, 3,500 lawsuits, consumer frauds, business ripoffs, thuggish behavior, pathological lying and unparalleled misogyny and sexism.
The only problem is we don’t live in reality television world. We live in the real world. It’s fraught with danger and real world challenges.
People often die, sometimes by the tens of thousands, and lives are ruined, sometimes by the millions, because of miscalculations, bad decision-making, arrogance, greed and thoughtlessness.
On that score, voters need to be concerned… very, very concerned.
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