Since so much of Donald Trump’s reality is mediated through television, perhaps it’s best to view the trajectory of his candidacy as if it were a reality show that hit it big in the beginning but then saw its audience diminish over the years, buoyed at the end only by the most ardent of fans who faithfully watched.
For all the clever tweets, sophisticated data, and focus group tested messages the Hillary Clinton campaign pumps out daily, they may have forgotten to ask the simple question that should be at the heart of every campaign: If voters had one sentence to explain why they support her candidacy, what would it be? After nineteen months of campaigning, I’m not sure they have an answer to that.
Now Hillary Clinton is a public figure, and in an era of wall-to-wall PR it’s hard to argue that she’s not playing the game. But perhaps she simply backed into it. Perhaps she’s that Sixties activist at heart who preferred behind-the-scenes advocacy and the humility of action — but got drawn into politics as a result of her husband’s career. Perhaps she is a reluctant politician, not a Machiavellian schemer.
What First Lady Michelle Obama gave us was a gift, a way to imagine America differently, a reaffirmation of the American Dream drawn from the experience of those who should have every right to be bitter about it. And she transformed politics from a blood sport about our wants and needs and anger today into a sacred promise we hold with our children to shape their lives and their futures.
That Donald Trump may believe we are living through another 1968 says less about the nation today and more about a man who may be our president. He admits to getting his news on cable, which creates a virtual 1968 with its constant images of unrest, violence, terrorism, and crime. But a virtual 1968 is not a real one, and we must expect any leader of our country to resist the emotional pull of gruesome television images and to think rationally and deliberately about the real state of our nation.