During the most recent GOP “debate” Donald Trump used a phrase that seemed revealing to me. Several times he said that his “ratings” were the highest among all the candidates. He was referring to polls, but the Freudian slip revealed a significant aspect of what Trump is actually doing.
Ratings are germaine to television shows, not political campaigns. Trump is not running a political campaign as much as he is doing what may be the ultimate reality show. A combination of “House of Cards” and “All in the Family,” the Donald is like a Machiavellian Archie Bunker bouncing from one bigoted or misogynistic comment to the next, identifying one social scapegoat after another.
The phenomenon would make for a good reality show, except that this is reality where his open appeals to fear, prejudice and jingoism has real consequences. This is certainly a concern to people in other countries who are aghast at the phenomenon.
I have to confess that, at first, I was amused at the spectacle of Trump’s demolition of the GOP field, but after witnessing his pandering to a bigot during a post-debate in New Hampshire yesterday, I realized that Trump is generating some very hateful and dangerous sentiments that could translate into actions. He is doing more than puncturing the thin veneer of civility in American politics — he is revealing to the basest elements of American society.