Donald Trump is going to be elected president.
The American people voted for him a long time ago.
They voted for him when The History Channel went from showing documentaries about the Second World War to Pawn Stars and Swamp People.
They voted for him when The Discovery Channel went from showing Lost Treasures of the Yangtze Valley to Naked and Afraid.
They voted for him when The Learning Channel moved from something you could learn from to My 600 Pound Life.
They voted for him when CBS went from airing Harvest of Shame to airing Big Brother.
These networks didn’t make these programming changes by accident. They were responding to what the American people actually wanted. And what they wanted was Naked and Afraid and Duck Dynasty.
The polls may show that Donald Trump is losing to Hillary Clinton, but don’t you believe those polls. When the AC Nielsen Company selects a new Nielsen family, they disregard the new family’s results for the first three months. The reason: when they feel they are being monitored, people lie about what they are watching. In the first three months, knowing they are being watched, they will tune into PBS. But over time they get tired of pretending. Then it is back to The Kardashians.
The same goes for people who are being asked by pollsters for whom they are voting. They will not say Donald Trump. It is too embarrassing. But the truth is, they like Trump. He is just like their favorite shows on TV.
Trump’s replacement of Paul Manafort with Breitbart’s Steve Bannon shows that Trump understands how Americans actually think. They think TV. They think ratings. They think entertainment.
We are a TV based culture. We have been for some time now. The average American spends 5 hours a day, every day, watching TV. After sleep, it is our number one activity.
More shockingly, we spend 8.5 hours a day staring at screens – phones, tablets, computers. And more and more of the content on those devices is also video and TV.
If you spend 5 to 8 hours a day, every day, for years and years doing the same thing it has an impact on you. For the past 40 years we have devoted 5 to 8 hours a day staring at a screen – every day. And we haven’t been watching Judy Woodruff. We have been watching Reality TV shows. That is what we love. That is what we resonate to. The Real Housewives of Atlanta.
The French may love food, the Italians may love opera. What we love is TV. We are TV culture. It defines who we are.
In the 1950s, early television was allowed, with many restrictions, to be an observational guest at political conventions. They were quiet ‘flies on the wall’, carefully and quietly commentating on what they saw way down below. They did not get involved in the process. Today, they ARE the process. Today, political conventions are nothing but carefully directed TV shows. Likewise ‘debates’. They exist only to entertain a TV audience. TV and entertainment now dictate everything political. It is a never-ending show. The biggest Reality Show on air.
And Donald Trump is great TV.
He knows how to entertain.
He understands ratings.
Hillary Clinton is crap TV.
She may be smarter, better prepared, a better politician. It won’t matter. She is terrible entertainment.
That’s just how it is. Depressing, but true.
He is Kim Kardashian. She is Judy Woodruff.
Who gets better ratings?
Who would you rather watch for the next four years?
In 1825, the great French gastronom Brillat de Savarind said, “tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are”. Today, in America, we can safely say, “tell me what you watch and I will tell you what you are”.
And what do we watch?
It isn’t The PBS Newshour.