Trump, Bernie and the entertainment campaign of 2016

Protesters disrupt Bernie Sanders event in Seattle, WA

Protesters disrupt Bernie Sanders event in Seattle, WA

Jeb Bush vs. Hillary Clinton. A presidential race between two dynastic candidates, focused on sharp policy differences. That’s the campaign we were supposed to get. Instead, as of August 2015, we are getting the Entertainment Campaign featuring sideshow issues involving Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Maybe it’s the presidential campaign we should have expected.

Last Thursday’s Republican presidential primary debate turned into a battle between Donald Trump and the Fox News debate moderators, including Megyn Kelly, who seemed intent on meddling in the GOP race by knocking Trump off the stage. Since then, the very circus “sideshow” that caused the Huffington Post to stop mentioning Trump on its Politics page has been swirling around Trump and whoever, such as Megyn Kelly, becomes his enemy du jour. The political and entertainment media are devouring the Trump story. Donald Trump, businessman and TV entertainment huckster turned presidential candidate, may be the most popular crossover artist since Michael Jackson.

The Bernie Sanders entertainment spectacle is a bit different. First, Sanders’ supporters seem fixated on Sanders’ star power, in particular his large crowds. Second, the biggest story involving Sanders lately is the series of attacks on him by protesters, some claiming to be from the Black Lives Matter group. The protests started at the Netroots Nation conference in Phoenix, Arizona in July, when protesters claiming to be with Black Lives Matter interrupted appearances by Sanders and his fellow Democratic presidential contender Martin O’Malley. Last Saturday in Seattle, two protesters allegedly representing Black Lives Matter again interrupted, just as Sanders began speaking. The protesters threatened to “shut down” the event if they didn’t get what they wanted. Event organizer Robby Stern decided to end the event, before Sanders got to speak any further. Then, at least one of the protesters was described as a “radical Christian” and Sarah Palin supporter. Conspiracy theories have emerged, blaming everyone from Hillary Clinton to the Republican Party for the protests. And rather than just focusing on his policies and his record, which includes plenty of civil rights activism and action, Sanders has spent part of his time appeasing the protesters.

Should we be surprised at the shiny object focus of the presidential race thus far? After all, Jon Stewart, whose satirical fake news show on Comedy Central became a trusted news source for many people, just went off the air after a hugely successful 16-year run. CNN, once the go-to network for hard news, now covers black holes and dildo flags. Fox News itself, the most popular cable “news” network, is really an entertainment network whose product is Republican propaganda.

Now, many people might say that it’s still early in the 2016 election process, and that the serious Hillary vs. Bush face-off is still likely. Clinton and Bush certainly seem to think so, based on the extent to which they have attacked each other, general election style, largely ignoring their party primary rivals. But as of now, the Clinton-Bush clash is on the back burner. Just take a look at this Google Trends page where the search terms were Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush. As far as frequency of search terms in news headlines, Trump leads by a mile, followed by Sanders. Clinton and Bush are third and fourth out of four.

It may be that the public will demand a more substantive presidential campaign as Election Day 2016 nears. Or perhaps such a campaign will be so boring that they will tune out, and, knowing that, the Mainstream Corporate Media will try to delay it as long as possible. But meanwhile, as the Gladiator asked, are you not entertained?

Photo by Tiffany Von Arnim, used under Creative Commons license.

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