I normally don’t watch CNN, but they show it on the TV at the food court at my local Gelson’s, so I couldn’t help watching it while I was waiting to use the men’s room. Donald Trump had given a speech at a retirement community somewhere, and he had gotten a good reception. However, one woman who was interviewed said, “He frightens me.” When asked why she gone had to see his speech anyway, she said, “He’s a celebrity.” Trumps’ candidacy shows the triumph of celebrity in our society. Trump is a celebrity, so he must be listened to. Fame trumps all other considerations.
Trump first came to national attention during the 1980’s. The eighties were a decade of make-believe. President Reagan presided over a humiliating military retreat from Lebanon, nevertheless we were told that he had made America “great again”; he had shown the world that we were not to be trifled with! Trump was another fantasy. A man who filed for bankruptcy three times, he was touted as a financial wizard, a man who had mastered “the art of the deal”. Does the re-emergence of Trump suggest that we are heading into another period of make-believe? Perhaps we don’t want to deal with the disappointments we’ve had. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were a bust. Obama’s promised “hope and change” have merely been a weak economic recovery and a deeply flawed health care bill. Trump offers us a fantasy world in which one only has to proclaim oneself great, and – hey presto! – one is automatically great.
The election of Ronald Reagan was seen as a symbol of how movies have come to dominate our culture. Trump promises to do the same thing for tacky reality TV shows.