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Past and Present

The Push Behind Trump Is Nothing New

Gage Skidmore / Flickr / Creative Commons

The embryonic Republican presidential primary season has witnessed the startling rise of Donald Trump in early polling. As the current frontrunner among a crowd of other GOP presidential hopefuls, the bombastic Trump, a real estate mogul and former host of hit television series "The Apprentice," has predictably attracted increased criticism from his fellow competitors. One of the charges directed his way is that he is a rich “reality TV star” with little concrete political experience.

While this accusation clearly has its merits, an examination of recent American political history indicates that “reality television” scenarios have, sadly, become increasingly prominent. For instance, the John McCain presidential campaign of 2008 featured such characters as the not-ready-for-prime-time Sarah Palin and the mysterious and ever-present “Joe the Plumber.”

Even more telling is how the U.S. Congress has conducted its business in recent years. For instance, who can forget the political theater associated with fights over raising America’s debt ceiling? Hollywood could not have come up with a more improbable scenario featuring politicians willing to jeopardize the country’s credit rating.

Donald’s Trump’s emergence as the current GOP frontrunner is not a phenomenon occurring in a vacuum. Dating back to the Kennedy-Nixon Presidential debates in 1960, television has been an increasingly potent force in American politics. What seemingly has changed in recent decades is an increased blurring of the distinction between politician and performer.