Skilled grifters can have a good long run. Bernie Madoff did. The prosperity gospel preachers, like Joel Osteen and Creflo Dollar, are still going strong with the message that the more money you give to the church, the more money God will give you. According to Tuesday’s primaries, the Trump show is still a ratings hit in the Republican Party. Wednesday morning’s news tells us that the Trump administration is looking at building tent cities along the Texas/Mexico border to warehouse all the children being stripped from their frantic parents’ arms. Way to go, Donald — show those animals who’s boss. Even an 18 month old might grow up to be an MS13 gang member, so we should treat them all like disposable garbage. Right, Republican voters? You’re all in with that?
What I’m wondering is whether the cult-like devotion will follow the trend of Trump’s previous reality TV venture, the Apprentice. Despite his claims of wild success, the show had steadily declining ratings.
“A series of trumped-up fiscal competitions that allegedly demonstrated contestants’ suitability for the modern business world, with Trump as a sort of godfather presence, “The Apprentice” was a genuine hit in that first season, ending as the seventh-most-watched TV show of the year, averaging almost 21 million viewers a week.
But NBC put it into its Thursday night prime time lineup, once revered as “must-see TV,” and the long slow decline for that network was underway. “The Apprentice” didn’t help: Its ratings declined steadily each year after that, to 11th place overall in its second season, then 15th, then 38th. When, after its sixth season in 2007, it finished as the 75th-most-watched show (with 7.5 million viewers on average), NBC decided to scrap real people as contestants and bring on celebrities close enough to rock bottom to appear on a reality show where success depended on ingratiating themselves to Trump.”
Trump is successful as a grifter; I’ll give him that. The 45M worth of useless real estate courses he sold his followers are living proof, as are his current approval ratings in the Republican Party. We’ll have to see whether the reality-TV presidency gets old, like the Apprentice, or whether 42% of the country really do live in existential fear of people of color, immigrants, trade, providing health care that protects people with pre-existing conditions, and respecting professional athletes’ right to free speech.