The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Is NBC really responsible for the rise of Donald Trump?

On a recent edition of the progressive radio program Ring of Fire, hosts Mike Papantonio and Farron Cousins discussed the mainstream media’s role in fueling the momentum of the Trump campaign, and strongly suggested that NBC effectively laid the foundation for Trump potentially becoming the 45th president (relevant discussion begins at 5:58):

I’ve never watched an episode of The Apprentice, and I’ve never quite understood the appeal of that program, or reality television in general. (Don’t even get me started on President Obama and Running Wild with Bear Grylls, despite the climate-consciousness of the December 17 edition of that program.) I’m not quite sure that NBC can be blamed for, frankly, the gullibility of American television audiences. After all, those who wasted hours watching Trump’s antics on The Apprentice could have been reading books instead.

It’s too easy to blame NBC for the rise of Trump, just as it’s too easy to blame Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes. There has always been an element of American culture that embraces the low, the vulgar, the putrid and the perverse. Donald Trump and NBC did not create that culture; it was a pre-existing condition in America’s body.

That condition could be fatal. You have to think that, love for his brother notwithstanding, George W. Bush is secretly rooting for Trump to win the Republican nomination and the presidency, since four to eight years of a Trump administration could actually make the Bush years look better by comparison. Sure, future historians will say, Bush lied America into war, abandoned American citizens in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, tortured people, attacked LGBT civil rights and wrecked the United States economy, but at least he didn’t inspire de facto pogroms against Mexicans and Muslims!

It’s creepy to think about it, no? Reagan’s recklessness almost made Nixon look OK relative to Bonzo’s co-star. Dubya’s destructiveness almost inspired nostalgia for the “Morning in America” era. Now, if Trump becomes the 45th President, people will start forgetting the 43rd President’s flaws. Trump would, on some level, have the power to rewrite history.

It is often said that every President becomes a reflection of the era in which he governed. When we think back to the Nixon era, our minds recall the cynicism of the age; when we remember the Reagan era, we think of the “Greed Is Good” ethos; when we think of the Bush years, we recall a time of constant fear. Let’s say Trump serves one or two terms as President. What will we think of when we remember those years?

UPDATE: More from the Boston Globe.

SECOND UPDATE: As it turns out, they’re already re-writing history with regard to George W. Bush’s awful climate record. More from Politico.

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D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.