Donald Trump Is the Clickbait of American Politics
Despite Trump’s boorish, misogynistic and casually racist rhetoric, the most recent New York Times/CBS poll reveals he leads the Republican polls at 27 percent.
Trump’s inflammatory remarks have produced a flamboyant media spectacle, abundant with entertaining sound bites. In order to keep pace, the remainder of the GOP is competing in a race to the bottom, or in the case of immigration reform, a race to the border.
While many political analysts and pundits refer to this phenomenon as the “Trump effect,” this is something even more profound.
The Donald has officially established himself as the clickbait of American politics.
Clickbait, the digital yellow journalism, includes any web content containing sensationalist headlines to attract click-throughs.
These extravagant titles aim to pique the reader’s curiosity by providing just enough information to garner their interest, but not enough to satisfy their curiosity without reading the article.
While clickbait websites successfully utilize this tactic to generate online advertising revenue through viral content, their heavy website traffic comes at the expense of journalistic quality and accuracy.
Social media, and our rapidly declining collective attention span, has spurred an insatiable demand to reduce political coverage to catchy sound bites and flashy articles.
These short video clips and trending news are as easy to share as silly articles titled “21 Reasons why Ebola is the New Radical Islam.”
Trump’s continual offensive and outlandish ramblings are easily packaged into brief clips. Americans can’t resist the fervent urge to indulge in Trump’s latest antics, as they eagerly await his next buffoonish quote.
While the overly groomed, loudmouth Cheeto ferret billionaire has been nothing short of entertaining; the constant attention dedicated to his charade of nonsensical rants forces his Republican counterparts to ante up on evoking controversial statements.
Republican candidates struggling to distinguish themselves from the cluster of middle-aged privileged white men with side parts, and the few minorities and woman who pretend to be middle-aged privileged white men, find themselves desperate to say anything to catch a fraction of the attention that the Donald has.
Similar to clickbait eroding journalistic accuracy, Trump has single-handedly deteriorated political discourse by forcing his peers to be equally ridiculous.
Jeb Bush, who sharply criticized Trump for his offensive comments toward Hispanics, made news last month when he dubbed Asian children “anchor babies,” a derogatory term used for foreign nationals who travel to America temporarily to give birth to children, without any immediate intention of pursuing residence.
This was retaliation to Trump attaching the moniker to Mexican immigrants.
Scott Walker, who has been plummeting in the polls after a lackluster debate performance, proposed building a border wall separating the U.S. from Canada, in a baffling attempt to one-up Trump’s proposal of building a southern border wall to prevent “Mexican rapists and criminals” from entering America.
Walker touts himself as a fiscal conservative who wants to throw hundreds of millions of dollars at an infrastructure project to solve a non-existent immigration problem. The Wisconsin governor’s campaign is eroding faster than his hairline, and latching onto Trump’s lunacy appears to be a desperate measure to revive his floundering presence on the national stage.
Lastly, after Trump called for an end to birth right citizenship, the 14th Amendment that guarantees citizenship to anyone born on U.S. soil, Rand Paul, Scott Walker, Rick Santorum, Ben Carson, Lindsey Graham, and even Bobby Jindal, whose parents were born in India lacking American citizenship during his birth, have all echoed Trump’s sentiments.
Fortunately for the man originally known as Piyush Jindal, he’s so irrelevant that the 0.3% of people who even know who he is will probably look past the irony of his call to repeal a Constitutional Amendment that prevents him from being deported.
While Republican presidential hopefuls drifting rightward to the brink of lunacy during primary season isn’t new, this wave of anti-immigrant rhetoric comes at an inopportune time as the party hoped to relate to a burgeoning Latino voter base that is already Democratic inclined.
Latino Decisions reports the GOP needs 40 percent of the Hispanic vote to secure the White House in 2016. This seems unlikely given the current trajectory of anti-immigrant hostility.
This Trump-fuelled carousel of incoherent rancor aimed to generate news coverage isn’t just toxic for the Republican brand, it’s demolishing American politics.
Instead of candidates civilly discussing intelligent and practical solutions to current problems, we’re left with a barrage of ostentatious blowhards making statements to generate attention, not ideas.
Even in the second GOP Debate, an auspicious opportunity for candidates to differentiate themselves from a crowded race, the other presidential hopefuls simply sunk into Trump’s cesspool of name-calling, gossiping and cliché conservative jargon. They looked more like caricatures of Ronald Reagan fan-girls than potential leaders.
Similar to clickbait’s ability to drive news websites to craft more wacky content in order to spur views, Trump is forcing the other GOP presidential hopefuls to play catch-up.
Unfortunately, this places a premium on showmanship over character, sound bites over substance, pomp over policy, personality over morality and spectacle over intellect.
All we’re left to do is sit back, turn on our computers and click on the next outrageous news involving Trump and his fellow Republican knuckleheads.