Maybe O.J. Simpson toting a gun as a passenger in the back seat of a white Bronco cruising down an LA freeway back in 1994 is to blame for this. The former NFL running back and actor became a suspect in the brutal murders of his ex-wife and her friend.
What followed was a media frenzy and a nationally televised trial that actually pushed afternoon soap operas to be shown later at night. Simpson became the show, along with Johnnie Cochran, Marcia Clark, Christopher Darden and Judge Lance Ito. And there were those gloves that became Cochran's battle cry of “if they don't fit, you must acquit.”
The end result was that Simpson was declared innocent by the jury, despite the fact that evidence linked him to the scene of the crime in a trail of blood in his white Bronco and near his home. Simpson became the symbol of racist abuse by the Los Angeles police that dated back to the Rodney King beating in 1991. Simpson was never an active participant in civil rights. On the contrary, most of his time was spent with middle-aged white men he played golf with. Of course, he made those “Naked Gun” movies that made us laugh.
Regardless, Simpson was great theater and a ratings bonanza. Reality TV was born. What followed was the MTV’s “The Real World”, “Court TV,” “The Bachelor,” “The Bachelorette,” and of late, “Honey Boo Boo,” “Real Wives” and “The Duggars.” Some of these older and present shows enjoyed some success because of devised plots that most of us know are either hyped up to fill out a half hour or hour. In short, there is nothing real about reality TV.
Donald Trump was also a reality TV star. “The Apprentice” gathered healthy ratings where Trump was the main attraction in this formulated plot in which he hired and fired people. Many of these people were B actors or celebrities whose 15 minutes had passed their expiration date. And many of these individuals were eager to accept Trump’s praise or rejection in the name of stardom. Trump was already known as a billionaire developer and larger than life personality who enjoyed the spotlight. His signature catch phrase on “The Apprentice” was “you’re fired.” The show’s popularity encouraged many spin-offs, including “Celebrity Apprentice.”
But Trump’s ambitions have taken on a greater stage. He is now the presumptive Republican candidate for president of the United States. Democrats and Independents initially did not take him seriously until it was too late. Trump and his supporters were later met with protests and physical confrontations at rallies.
But it is not just many Democrats and Independents who oppose Trump. He has also drawn the ire of conservative Republicans who see his campaign as a farce. They oppose him on the basis that he has does not share their conservative values and that he has no chance to defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton. Many moderate Republicans oppose Trump because of his often outrageous statements and volley of insults at the other candidates.
But as we enter the second week of May, Trump is the only Republican standing. He left Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in the Indiana dust two weeks ago, ending his campaign. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a congenial sort whose campaign never registered a pulse, bowed out the following day after Cruz threw in the towel.
And Clinton, who has most of the delegates sewed up for the convention, cannot put away from the passionate Gov. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Independent. Sanders will continue to hang around to frustrate Clinton after winning Indiana.
But if Trump seems to have so much opposition, how is he winning? Well, it all comes back to his days as a reality TV star. Barking out you are hired or fired resonates with some people. He did not follow the conventional playbook against his opponents. When they finally began to realize they better start to taking him seriously, Trump would respond by mocking them, criticizing the looks of Carly Fiorina, the lone female GOP candidate, and continually shouting out how America is going to be great again.
We could go on and on about the insults. But for brevity sake, let’s take the most recent. Trump stated on the day he was going to win Indiana suggested that Cruz’s father, Rafael Cruz, was an associate of John F. Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. And his latest salvo was fired at House Speaker Paul Ryan, who said at this point he is not backing Trump. He needs more time and a chance to talk with the Republican front-runner, Ryan said.
Trump’s response could have been predicted. He said that he may not support Ryan. Trump has someone in his corner. Conservative cheerleader and shrill Sarah Palin backs Trump, essentially saying that they don’t need Ryan.
This is reality TV at its finest. I don’t know where this is leading us to but it will be historic. This will be a brutal campaign and it will leave most of us feeling a little empty.
But just like the sight of that white Bronco, the ratings should be terrific.
Joe Boyle is the editor of The Reporter. He can be reached at email@example.com.