Putting Trump on Television Will Never Do Anything But Further His Own AgendaJanuary 8, 2021
No matter how well-intentioned the plea, it was hard not to cringe when President-elect Joe Biden called for Donald Trump on Wednesday to appeal to his supporters for calm by getting on television. Throughout his career, whether as a reality show host or as the President of the United States, Trump has very rarely used his time on TV to do anything other than incite a strong reaction in his audience. It wasn’t surprising, then, when Trump’s subsequent statement to those insurrectionists scaling the Capitol walls included far more affection than condemnation. Trump has spent the weeks since Election Day ginning up this exact response. This many people putting themselves on the line for him won’t be alarming to Trump, but downright exciting.
It’s undeniable that Trump’s quest to be the world’s most famous man wouldn’t have worked without television, a medium that’s allowed him to deliver his bravado and rambling thoughts with barely any filter. Even on “The Apprentice,” a show that underwent plenty of editing to heighten its dramatic stakes, producer Mark Burnett helped Trump fine-tune his persona as a successful businessman who doesn’t compromise or tolerate any bullshit. That onscreen process gave Trump some semblance of gravitas and a crash course in how to grab attention — the foundation, in other words, on which he’d later run his successful presidential campaign.
The more exaggerated his speech, the more news networks scrambled to make room for it. The more “unbelievable” his statements, the harder comedy shows worked to satirize them. He lies, knowing the truth doesn’t particularly matter as long as the falsities go live first. The Trump Show is an all-consuming beast, and as Trump well knows, it would starve without TV. Over the last several years, it’s been both fascinating and terrifying to watch other politicians learn that same lesson to the point that today, when contesting an election with no evidence of fraud, Senator Ted Cruz referenced the “viewers” instead of “voters.”
So, sure, it would be nice if we had a president who cared enough about the safety of his government and constituents enough not to encourage people from burning it all down. But we don’t. We have Donald Trump, who’s spent decades building a brand of hate and hyperbolic bluster that thrives on doing the exact opposite. If anything, he might consider this many people taking his commands to give Washington hell this literally to be one of his greatest successes.
Four years of President Trump and countless jaw-dropping TV appearances later, this much should be obvious. He’s never seen himself as the president of a united states so much as a ringmaster of devoted fans. We should really know better by now that putting him on television to denounce an audience that loves him, no matter how ridiculous or violent, will always be a losing game.
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