There, I’ve said it. I’m starting to feel better already
Not that it is an unusual addiction, mind you. In a recent witty Washington Post article, one writer describes rising on his first perfect Paris vacation morning, café and croissants exactement how he likes them, only to first compulsively fire up the laptop to read what Trump said overnight.
Even for people who can’t stand the man, this new form of the “DTs” has become a sort of current affairs porn.
Why? Well, Trump is a reality TV natural. He knows how to keep you hanging for the next instalment. His campaign has been compelling. First, it was a riotous overturning of the rules; recently it’s become an unfolding train wreck.
When have we had a candidate so routinely dismissed as narcissistic, dishonest and racist? And that’s just what people in his own party say about him. For the Democrats, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid politely opines that Trump is a “bigot who is clearly unfit for office”.
Coded racial attacks are hardly new. But this candidate also attacks the disabled, grieving mothers and, it seemed on one occasion, babies.
Just when you think it is fun, there comes the nagging realisation it is real. And, among the many factors that have made it so, are two enduring, cynical views about public relations in its widest sense.
One is the idea that all publicity is good publicity. The second is that perception… er… trumps reality. People who believe this tend to plug their own line and hope that just repeating their “messages” will win in the end.
The first is easily dealt with. Pushing the boundaries further than anyone could ever have imagined, all publicity really does seem to be good for Kim Kardashian. And maybe it once was the same for Donald Trump when he was a maverick billionaire. But it doesn’t apply to the would-be leader of the free world.
The second idea you see in Trump’s campaign team every day. Accused of being pawns for the Kremlin? Hit back that the real issue is how Barak Obama founded ISIS. (Even if you later shrug this off as sarcasm).
Trump has probably been helped by an audience conditioned to reality TV: where fibs and half-truths coexist for the sake of entertainment.
Did Trump really call for Clinton’s assassination? Video footage of the supporter sitting behind him clearly shows shock and surprise. But tell the same man nothing like that was said, and he would probably believe that, too.
But you can’t fool all of the people all of the time, thank God. It’s surely been a blow for decency that a high proportion of Americans see Trump’s mockery of the disabled, for example, as disqualifying.
In general terms, the optimistic conclusion is that a good number of people usually follow an issue intelligently and draw their own conclusions. In the long run, these people also lead public opinion.
But none of this is a given. Justice doesn’t always prevail. Between now and November, I will keep getting my fix of The Donald, one day at a time.