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Donald Trump is a Cultural Phenomenon

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Will Donald Trump Follow Barack Obama’s Path to the White House?

Cruz and Rubio are running as mere politicians; Trump’s running as a phenomenon. Do you remember 2008 and the early years of Barack Obama’s presidency, when it felt like the entire country had gone mad, viewing an unaccomplished first-term senator as a national messiah? His face stared out at you from seemingly every magazine cover — and not just the political journals or newsweeklies, but health magazines, glossy fashion digests, and technology reviews.

Obama wasn’t a mere senator running to be commander-in-chief; he was a cultural figure popping up everywhere in American life: late-night television, ESPN, music lyrics, Hollywood. (His exhausting, ubiquitous media presence continues to this day.)

The Obama-mania went well beyond the usual media bias or partisanship; it was an unprecedented national cult of personality. A July 2008 column by Mark Morford in the San Francisco Chronicle suggested, with no detectable sarcasm, Obama was a “Lightworker,” described as “that rare kind of attuned being who has the ability to lead us not merely to new foreign policies or health-care plans or whatnot, but who can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet.” Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. said that “what Barack Obama has accomplished is the single most extraordinary event that has occurred in the 232 years of the nation’s political history. . . . The event itself is so extraordinary that another chapter could be added to the Bible to chronicle its significance.” Celebrities even taped videos pledging allegiance to him.

It felt like mass hysteria; those of us who doubted the junior senator’s ability to bring about Nirvana felt like strangers in our own country. It felt a bit like “gaslighting,” a constant barrage of misinformation to make us feel like we were losing our sanity. Almost as one, America’s elites insisted our national salvation would be found in this . . . celebrity.

Did our country learn from that mass hysteria? Has the disappointment of Obama’s presidency spurred some soul-searching or reexamination among our elites about their shallow criteria for leadership? Did the media realize the consequences of reducing a presidential election to obsessive coverage of one particular figure? Did Americans learn to recoil from the warping effect of blurring the lines between the race for president and the realm of pop-culture celebrities?

Apparently not.

Donald Trump’s ability to emulate Obama’s 2008 full-spectrum media domination is a great omen for his presidential ambitions. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and the rest are running as mere politicians; Trump is running as an unstoppable cultural phenomenon. Sure, a lot of the coverage of him is negative, but that’s almost beside the point. Trump isn’t just dominating the debate; he is the debate. Each morning, he wakes up, calls into whatever morning show he feels like, and effectively decides what the news cycle is going to be about. And almost the entire media complex happily goes along for the ride, enjoying the controversy and the ratings, and calculating — quite possibly erroneously — that elevating Trump will ultimately benefit the Democratic nominee.


Source: Jim Geraghty, http://www.nationalreview.com