by Ron Mwangaguhunga
Could Trump Become President? That is the question the chattering class is now asking itself anxiously. Previous to that the media wondered, in all earnestness, how could this guy even be winning primaries? And the answer to that quite frankly was: because you keep covering him, Sherlock. The ratings pressure to cover every utterance of The Trumpster clearly helped him in schooling the entire Republican Party. The cablers, especially, contorted gymnastically to cover Trump rallies. They broadcast Trump, unfiltered, which is virtually unprecedented in the history of the medium. He was even allowed to do phone-ins when he didn't feel like walking in to the broadcast studio. Although he is quite wealthy, Donald Trump has essentially had to spend little of his own money. And why should he really? It was all part of the unspoken deal, they got ratings, Trump got his message out using their cameras.
That was the primaries. Now, there are no longer scores of over-polished professional speechifiers to share the headlines. Trump excelled in that forum because on such a crowded stage to the wittiest one-liners goes the crown. The last gladiator in that arena is one of the toughest and most qualified people ever to run for office, Hillary Rodham Clinton. And while Clinton does not inspire die-hard enthusiasm across the country, she is extremely effective on the debate stage and virtually matchless on questions of domestic or international policy. This summer feature of Trump v. Clinton will be must-see TV, every bit as fascinating, but more believable than Batman v. Superman.
That having been said, the Presidency is and has always been at heart a popularity contest. Which candidate, as the old political saying goes, would you rather drink beer with in a bar? Bush or Dukakis; Obama or McCain; Kennedy or Nixon; Lincoln or Douglas? When voters pull the lever in November, they will, above all things, be inviting their candidate to spend at least the next four years as a familiar face on the television, on the mobile device. With that in mind, the question of Trump's Presidency, when contrasted with that of a Clinton Presidency, does not seem all that far-fetched.
“When you play the game of thrones you win or die,” said the frosty blonde Cersei Lannister in the first season of Game of Thrones. “There is no middle ground.” American politics is not nearly so brutal, but it is not without that certain aforementioned gladiatorial aspect. Our own frosty blonde former Secretary of State bided her time, played on the Obama Team for eight years, burnished her foreign policy credentials, skillfully navigated that thorny Biden possibility and, in the end, outlasted a wily, insurgent progressive candidate from Vermont. It stretches credulity to believe that this was not the plan from the minute she accepted President Obama’s offer to be the 67th Secretary of State.
Hillary’s competence, her smooth valedictorian air may also be her downfall. Logically, the more competent gladiator wins. We are in a change election (aren’t they all nowadays?), but even more so than the last when Barack Obama literally ran on the “Change” mandate. The voter expectations for real change in the way Washington does things are almost apocalyptic. Can you imagine a time when Bernie Sanders, a self-professed Socialist, could come so close to securing the Democrat nomination for President of the United States? And on the other side of the political aisle, not since General Dwight Eisenhower has the Republican Party ever elected a non-politician as its nominee. Say what you will about Donald Trump, he is authentic. Trump’s manner of speaking - the put downs, the self-aggrandizing over the top superlatives – is the real deal. On the debate stage how will Hillary’s cool, Lannisterian competence come off when compared to the brash reality TV show star. Will voters want to drink a beer in the local bar with her?
Ron Mwangaguhunga is a Brooklyn based writer focused on media, culture and politics. His work has appeared in Huffington Post, IFC and Tribeca Film Festival, Kenneth Cole AWEARNESS, NY Magazine, Paper Magazine, CBS News.com, and National Review online to name a few. He is currently the editor of the Corsair.
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