I’m currently 40 years old. I grew up in the 80’s, which means I’ve known who Donald Trump is for a long time. Even as a little kid, I remember the big gold “Trump” on the front of the Art of the Deal and Trump Tower. I didn’t know anything about him, but I knew he was a big shot of some sort, and stupidly rich. Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, you basically knew who Trump was, and that he was sort of the personification of American capitalist celebrity. He was the first guy, in my life at least, who I can remember being famous just for being rich. It was a huge deal if he showed up on Oprah, or some news show, and he had that 80’s rich celebrity aura about him. In the mid to late 90’s he kind of fell off the map, or maybe I was too busy partying with my friends in my early 20’s to care what Donald Trump was doing, but he came right back into public consciousness with the Apprentice in 2004.
But this article isn’t a biography of Donald Trump. This article is about how he has changed politics forever, via his celebrity star power and personality. We will get into that in a bit, but first let’s look at some of the “celebrity” presidents we’ve had before. Obviously, any president is going to be a celebrity on some level, just by virtue of the fact that they run the greatest and most badass country of all time. Every President is world renown and carries a tremendous amount of weight with ever word they utter. In my lifetime at least, Barack Obama was the first President that felt like a celebrity. There was a lot of people that worship the ground he walked on, and still do. He did all the nightly talk shows, and had a far more magnetic and fun personality than most presidents as well. I like to think I kept up with politics pretty well during his terms, but I can tell you, I and the rest of the world didn’t hang on his every syllable the way we do with Trump. I didn’t watch his every press conference. I didn’t watch every time he answered a question aboard Air Force One or Marine One. I didn’t watch every time he had a rally, and I don’t think I ever even saw his Twitter account.
What we have right now is on a whole other level of celebrity. What separates Donald Trump is that he was world famous BEFORE he was president. As President, he has been perfectly willing to use the tools that made him famous, while in the presidency. The brash showman, jokester, fighting attitude, and highly inappropriate fire starter hasn’t let up one bit. The result is one thing that I argue is overwhelmingly good whether you love or despise him:
His celebrity and personality makes people care about what’s going on in the country at a level we haven’t seen in a long time.
For a long time, we’ve had a fairly disconnected citizenry. Sure, we’ve had high engagement on the fringes, whether it be the Tea Party or Occupy Wall Street, but the massive middle was largely apathetic and didn’t closely follow what was going on in the country. Those days are over. For better or worse, EVERYONE cares about what Trump does, and by extension, the government. Every word he utters is national news on a scale never before seen, and every tweet drives an entire news cycle. His slightest utterance is capable of preempting virtually anything else. The interesting part is that Barack Obama currently has over double the number Twitter followers, yet I never read one tweet of his while he was President. If you go read his Twitter right now, it’s so incredibly boring and mundane. Trump, for whatever faults he has is deeply interesting. Every tweet or statement hangs right on the edge of inappropriate, thus he has your engagement, and he knows it. Every single news outlet immediately stops what they are doing to cover a Trump tweet. During the campaign he got millions of dollars worth of free coverage, just due to his celebrity. I’ll never forget the time he trolled CNN into airing 45 minutes of military generals endorsing him, just so he could utter one sentence about Barack Obama’s birth certificate and then leave.
Things don’t slide under the radar any more. I remember when people used to make fun of watching hearings and votes on CSPAN and the like. Now, every machination of the federal government is under a microscope. This is part of why we have seen the barrage of harassment allegations and discoveries of slush funds and the like recently. It’s not that these things didn’t happen before, it’s that people are really paying attention now. To a large extent, Trump did that, though not directly. The left has gone after him with such insane vigor, that they hang on every action that happens in government, and his followers do the same to defend him and his administration’s actions. Nothing is too small to get noticed now. Part of “Draining the Swamp” is getting people to pay attention to what’s going on in government. Slush funds, back room deals, and payoffs that no one used to find about about, it’s all out there now. We are in the most transparent time for our government, maybe ever, and a lot of it is enabled by the intense scrutiny Trump has brought in on both sides.
So whether you love him or hate him, he has changed the game, permanently. It’s unlikely we will ever go back to the days of low information, back room deals, and payoffs. It might take a couple boring presidencies after him to reset us back to normal. I always said one of the biggest advantages of Trump was that he’d clean up government corruption. That doesn’t mean he necessarily has to do it himself, he’s doing it by proxy through all of us watching closer than ever before. A lot of this that’s happening isn’t directly his doing, but is enabled by the levels of scrutiny brought about by him. Carlos Lozada wrote in the Washington Post after his election: “Trump will have to do something that appears contrary to his nature: He will have to cease behaving like a celebrity. Trump must relinquish spectacle, trading it in for the unglamorous business of governing.”
Wrong. The spectacle made us pay attention, more than we ever have, and the country will be better off for it.
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I decided last night that I would watch the Emmy Awards as a public service to anyone who reads or watches anything I do, so they don’t have to experience it themselves. I also try to ensure that I consume plenty of ideologically opposed information that is against what I believe in, just to make sure I’m not living in the bubble I accuse others of living in. I watch a lot of progressive Twitter accounts, a few TV shows, and read articles from Left wing media. So, I took on the challenge to see if I could sit through 3 hours of self aggrandizing, Trump-Hating celebrities. I succeeded, but it was just as eye-rolling and pretentious as I assumed it would be.
I knew it was going to be very political just on the basis of the host, Stephen Colbert. Back in my progressive days, I watched Colbert, John Stewart, and John Oliver virtually every night. Their schtick eventually got old, just due to repetition of the same personality and writing style every episode, to say nothing of the fact that my politics evolved over the years. I’m about to enlighten you on how virtually all of these shows work in terms of psychology. I wish I could claim credit for being the one to notice this, but I actually never did until I saw a post originating from a psychologist and posted on the internet. You see, virtually all of these shows follow the exact same pattern. The originating post describes this process better than I can, so here it is:
I remember watching these shows and getting sense that the structure felt oddly familiar every episode, but I never put it together that there’s actually psychological reasoning behind the pacing. During the Emmys, SNL, Colbert, Oliver, and Meyer were all showered with awards and nominations. In the end, Oliver and SNL won the Trump Hate Olympics, which is all those awards really were. Even Alec Baldwin, whose Trump impression isn’t even all that good, won a major award.
The opening musical arrangement ran like an ad for the Democrats. They managed to work in climate change, racism, and virtually every other Democrat talking point into the musical. Then, throughout the night virtually every presenter and award winner made either an Anti-Trump diatribe, or some sort of social justice commentary. In a hilarious irony that even Colbert noticed, the biggest celebrity in the world was’t even there: The President. This morning it was confirmed as I expected that these Emmys pulled in some of the lowest ratings they’ve ever done. I guess regular people being lectured by a room full of rich celebrities isn’t something that’s appealing to the average person. There’s a delicious irony in the fact that Trump is a bigger celebrity than any of them.
You see, we are in uncharted territory right now. In days gone by, before the advent of social media, if a celebrity had something to say, you might hear about it once a month in a magazine, newspaper, or TV interview. They always had a big platform being famous, but only recently have they been able to really get their messages out there in a massive way. The people collected in that room last night collectively have Twitter feeds that literally number in the millions, if not billions, combined. Now, if Hollywood stars want to perpetuate a message, they can do so very easily to millions of people in one shot. You now generally know going into a movie or TV show the politics of the people involved.
When I was growing up, I loved several celebrities like Arnold and Stallone. I loved the fact that regardless of what was going on in my life I could sit in front of a Stallone movie and escape reality for a couple of hours. My perception of Arnold and Stallone wasn’t influenced by any sort of politics, so I was able to escape for a bit from reality. Now, a significant portion of the country reviles celebrity, because they’ve taken that escape away. For the average person, who just goes to work and wants to care for their family, they had tv, movies, and sports as an escape and relaxation time after a hard week of actual work. As we’ve seen, even football has become political, so now there’s no escape. Everything is political now, and even watching SportsCenter to get scores has become some sort of social justice lecture constantly. Celebrities and athletes only existed as a mechanism to entertain the average working person, and now that escape is shattered, as they’ve made their hatred for the average person obvious.
What we have now are a bunch of celebrities living in their own fantasy land. These are people who no longer have to worry about the economy, schools, jobs, taxes, or national security. They live in multiple story mansions with security guards and walls, and shower us peons with their virtue signaling about how awesome the world would be if only we were as good of a person as they are. You see, when you don’t need to worry about anything that concerns regular people, all you have left is climate change and social justice. When was the last time you saw a celebrity concerned about jobs in their hometown? Or finding a good school for their child? You don’t, but you do hear about how racist we all are. How we have held back so much progress and care nothing for equality, and the election of Donald Trump proves how we are all a bunch of White Supremacists.
Last night, Donald Glover deservedly won two of the most prestigious awards the Emmys have to offer: Lead Actor and Outstanding Director. He took this opportunity to tell us how oppressed black people are under Donald Trump. Setting aside the fact that black people won several of the top tier accolades, and that we just came off of a black president, I was unaware that there’s new oppression of black people that only started since January the 20th. Then we had the Winner of Best Show, which was the Handmaids Tale, a supposed commentary on authoritarian regimes, which we are quickly reminded we are currently living under. Again, I was unaware that Donald Trump is currently forcing breeding programs and rolling back rights for women. In addition, Elizabeth Moss is a scientologist, which is one of the most authoritarian ideologies out there.
To most celebrities, we hate you. Not because you have a differing opinion, but because you destroyed our escape, then afterwards, insulted us all right to our faces. By all means though, please keep it up.
Meanwhile, we will keep winning elections and tuning you out.
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Steve is the author of Forging the Iron Mind, and is the founder and CEO of Americana Prime.