[Rushtalk] Shurb 2 ^ Schreck 2 and THE Donald

Carl Spitzer lynux at keepandbeararms.com
Sun Jun 21 15:23:12 MDT 2015

Why Donald Trump is standing for president now - and why it's great to have him

by Alyssa Rosenberg

Donald Trump has been threatening to stand for higher office at least 
since 1988. He has prowled around the New York governorship. He has 
pontificated about the presidency almost as often as fellow fringe 
candidate Lyndon LaRouche has aimed at the country's highest office.

But every time Trump has called attention to himself by speculating 
about standing for president, he has ultimately backed down, denying 
everyone his presence on the Iowa hustings and the debate stage, where 
he would have been a highly amusing addition to what has long been 
America's stodgiest reality television show.

    "If Trump was going to stand for president, a move that requires NBC 
to look at whether he can continue hosting The Celebrity Apprentice in 
light of equal-airtime rules, the 2016 cycle isn't a bad time to do it."

So why is the Donald blessing the Republican field with his presence 
this time around? The answer is relatively simple. For all that his 
fortune is based in real estate development, Trump has been, for quite 
some time now, fundamentally an entertainer.

But Trump's entertainment businesses haven't been looking so great 
lately. Trump has always been a big, audacious talker, but he has 
pretended that he's thinking about standing for president often enough 
that hot air won't lift ratings on The Apprentice and The Celebrity 
Apprentice the way they might have in the past. This time, if he wants 
to juice his entertainment career, Trump has to actually get into the 
game, if only for a little while.

It's amazing to look back at the early years of The Apprentice, Trump's 
reality competition show, and its spin-off, The Celebrity Apprentice, 
and to remember just how wide their reach was. In 2004, 27.6 million 
people tuned in to the first-season finale of The Apprentice, which gave 
contestants a shot at a job working for Trump, a number that briefly 
made it the most popular show on television – it had been raking in as 
many as 20 million viewers for earlier episodes. When The Celebrity 
Apprentice, which featured famous people competing for a cash prize on 
behalf of charities, made its debut four years later, 12.1 million 
people tuned in for the results show, a smaller, but still respectable, 

The decline in years since has been substantial; by 2010, The Apprentice 
was capturing a quarter of the audience it had pulled in its first 
season and was airing in between seasons of The Celebrity Apprentice. 
The Celebrity Apprentice had a slower decline, perhaps because it had 
less far to fall. There was a delay of a year and a half between the 
2013 and 2015 seasons, which produced a bit of a ratings bounce: An 
average of 7.6 million people tuned in to the 2015 season, up from 5.6 
million in 2013. But that is hardly the sort of uptick that signals that 
a juggernaut has returned.

To a certain extent, Trump has been the victim of a more general 
fragmentation in television viewership. With many more options, both on 
cable and on streaming services such as Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime 
(disclosure: Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington 
Post), the number of viewers that makes a hit is much smaller than it 
was a decade ago: Empire won that title by pulling 21.1 million viewers 
for its finale this year. And reality television in particular has 
struggled; it's cheap to produce, but viewers seem somewhat 
oversaturated on competitions and supposedly unusual families offered up 
for their gawking pleasure.

So if Trump was going to stand for president, a move that requires NBC 
to look at whether he can continue hosting The Celebrity Apprentice in 
light of equal-airtime rules, the 2016 cycle isn't a bad time to do it. 
And to be honest, he's hardly alone in using the campaign cycle to fuel 
a media career. Long-shot candidates such as Mike Huckabee and Ben 
Carson are probably in the race in part to boost book sales, radio 
appearances and their Fox News relevance.

Trump may be splashier and trashier than other contestants who are 
playing a similar game, but in a way, there's something valuable and 
clarifying about his presence in the race. Most of the campaign is 
entertainment and self-aggrandisement, whether the contestants are, in 
reality television parlance, "there for the right reasons" or not.

Alyssa Rosenberg writes a blog for the Washington Post.


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