The Trump and Kelly Reality Show
The ongoing Trump and Kelly reality show reveals the influence popular culture, particularly television, has had on politics.
And it’s not a good influence. It’s not good because it’s cheap fakery.
By now, most Americans are aware that the “reality” shows they watch are actually carefully scripted. For example, the people in “Naked and Afraid,” though they really do take their clothes off, are being followed by a television crew and a day and night medic who is always available to ensure no one actually dies. Viewers are most likely to watch out of a prurient interest in nudity rather than from a passionate belief or hope that one of the actors actually gets eaten by a crocodile. The naked truth is that everyone understands cave man realities of life in the wild don’t really apply to a reality show.
Like the typical reality show, the debate was mostly smoke and mirrors with the focus on chief actors Donald Trump and Megyn Kelly with the other Republican candidates as background actors. Post debate, there has been nothing substantive generated from the ongoing disputes between the two leading personalities.
Calmer minds know the Trump/Kelly kerfuffle is ginned up to stimulate mindless, excitatory responses from potential voters. Trumps’ insults and Kelly’s responses are guaranteed to produce faux outrage that takes the focus off substantive issues. Trump’s vulgarities wind up amounting to mere Pavlovian bell ringing for the masses, who are expected to salivate on cue over the next tidbit proffered them from the political barbecue.
Further, for Republicans, the turmoil takes the spotlight off the disastrous policies of the Obama administration and off the Hillary Clinton scandals in particular.
In sum, the whole scene during and post debate has elevated personalities over issues. The shallow debacle is illustrative of the American penchant for utilizing the tried and true stimulants of power, money and sex, a trio that has helped the current two major players in the contemporary political game show to attain higher ratings.
It’s worthy of E! and People magazine yellow journalism. It’s petty politics measured by the Richter scale of outrage.
Strong feelings about the actors rather than rationality as the measure of policy have been raised to a level hitherto unseen in an American campaign for the presidency.
It's all so very invigorating.
But it’s catastrophic.
It’s particularly catastrophic for Republicans, who have seen the entire presidential campaign hijacked by a sideshow that could go on for the entire length of the campaign. The rest of the candidates in the Republican field have been almost completely bamboozled by the razzle-dazzle Trump, their agenda completely submerged by a player whose chief focus is self-interest and self-promotion.
But there are worse things than hijacking going on.
The fact of the matter is that the media’s attention to and the hunger of millions of Americans for this type of fodder reveals a press and an electorate that has been reduced to the level of being fellow participants in the Trump/Kelly reality show. They are TV actors, too, getting their own fifteen minutes of fame.
While Megyn Kelly seems to be an exceptionally intelligent woman with a terrific future ahead of her, she and the other moderators succumbed to a gotcha mentality that was more prosecutorial than inquiring. All three appeared to wish to attack more than they did to display genuine interest in the candidates’ policy views. The opining question about the willingness of each candidate to support an opponent who might carry the torch for the Republican Party was clearly intended to demolish Trump from the get-go. Likewise with the question on abortion directed to Walker. The moderators also seemed to be clearly aiming for an anarchical firestorm among the candidates. They appeared to want to goad the campaigners into torching one another.
But just as bad, Americans in general seem to be willing to be herded into the reality show corral. Or they seem to want to be ringside participants watching the boxing match rather than being the cool, objective observers needed to analyze the situation.
Maybe a number of citizens are so unhappy with their own lives and their prospects for a future that they would rather watch something that appears real -- something that adds a bit of excitement to their existences. The entertainment the Trump/Kelly reality show may provide may act as a substitute for real life. Maybe watching the ongoing political show makes some feel like they are living an exciting life like the actors in “Naked and Afraid.”
Perhaps the passions ignited by the debate and its aftermath appear to many to auger the beginnings of real hope and change. Maybe some feel that at least issues like immigration, long stonewalled or swept under the rug, are at least now coming out in the open. Perhaps some feel Trump is a brass trumpet whose blaring is needed to provide a brusque wakeup call to a nation that has been listening to mournful taps too long. Maybe some are listening to him because he seemingly represents the anti-establishment wing in a way more moderate voices don’t.
Perhaps also, the debate provided a winnowing process revealing viable candidates, a process that otherwise might have taken longer had not the prosecutorial gotcha mentality prevailed.
Whatever the case, the reality sideshow should end and the next season be cancelled for good. Future debates should not and must not take on the format or tone of the first. The personality contest between Kelly and Trump must end and serious moderation of debates must begin.
The point of debating should be reaffirmed: Real, substantive discussion about critical issues and real, substantive solutions for those issues must be drawn from and heard from the Republican candidates for president. And it must be done fairly -- without preference for or hostility toward one particular candidate. Moderators should realize the debates are not about them, their fifteen minutes of fame or their ratings.
Last, Fox News needs to have a panel of moderators who have the humility to recognize the debates are not about them. If Fox News moderators, including Megyn Kelly, cannot do the job properly and fairly, then the Republican Party needs to search for other moderators who will do the job right.
Fay Voshell was selected as one of the Delaware GOP’s “Winning Women” in 2008. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .