Once upon a time, Americans expected their celebrities to have a modicum of skill for entertaining the masses, and their politicians to have a modicum of skill for serving the public. The former expectation was demolished in the previous decade, with the rise of Paris Hilton and the Kardashians. In this decade, it seems the latter expectation will be demolished. Donald Trump’s recent “potential” presidential campaign run and now the possibility of same from Sarah Palin are signals of this new condition.
Donald Trump has run for president before. He was a potential Reform Party candidate for the 2000 presidential elections. The obscure political party was a tip-off that it was nothing but a sideshow, and Trump delivered with celebrities at every stop and a gold-plated “Trump One” campaign plane. Palin delivered when she ran for Vice President and (thank GOD,) lost!) We all had a good laugh, and both Trump & Palin went home before they had to face any voters but after they got a boost of what they both like best: media attention.
Still, while Trump showed absolutely no inclination of taking any of this more seriously than he did the first time around – he actually was seeking nomination to the Republican party with the intent of running on a platform of “birtherism” and bullying the Arab states into handing over their oil… How was that possible?
What’s truly frightening is that a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll showed that Trump was tied with Mike Huckabee as the top Republican presidential candidate! The Arizona state Senate passed a “birther” bill requiring 2012 candidates to prove they were born in the United States after Trump met with the bill’s author. Serious Republican candidates were actually asked on national television how they felt about being Trump’s vice president!
Fortunately, Trump will never be president and neither will Sarah Palin. Neither has any intention of ever standing before the voters – Trump has already left the scene and once Sarah Palin has milked all that she can out of the increased ratings for her reality television show, she’ll ride off into the sunset on a Palin-branded horse…maybe to her new home in Arizona. So the only question worth pondering here is how a nightmarish parody of self-actualization became a contender – or rather, how the American people allowed either of them to be a contender?
Something has happened in this country. The sole genius of Sarah Palin was to recognize the shift in the air. Once she realized that she could earn far more money and attention by pretending to be a serious politician than to actually be one, she left that boring job in the Alaska’s governor’s office and never looked back.
Now she endorses candidates, makes policy proposals, speaks at political engagements – all without having to bother with the messy business of governing (or, for that matter, even knowing what she’s talking about!) She’s responsible for the rise of all those candidates who never should have been taken seriously and yet somehow manage to suck all of the oxygen, the attention, and the funding out of the room .
I suppose that everyone needs a hustle in our ruthless economy, and Palin and Trump have only given the people what they want. And apparently what people want is endless distraction, even in politics – all the better, perhaps, to pull everyone’s attention away from the desperation of our crumbling infrastructure, terrible schools and bankrupt job market.
But the problem is that this is not a reality show. This is our country. And while we may get the democracy that we deserve, the price we have to pay for our enjoyment of these ridiculous candidates may be much greater than we think. The Joke is on us!