How will the next president keep the American people entertained?

Windsor Mann, a contributing writer for The Week, takes a light-hearted look at how we’ll miss Trump because he so entertaining. “The day after he leaves office,” he writes, “I will be bored.”

But this is a serious concern. How do we get the public to focus on the serious work of governing with even a fraction of the attention they give the you-laugh-you-cry crisis-a-minute look-at-me always-a-cliffhanger reality TV show that is the Trump presidency?

Or will people just tune out, until another huckster comes around?

That would be particularly disastrous because the American public – not just the elites — needs to embark, soon, on a major democratic restoration project. The first step includes a lot of questions. How does the political ecosystem recover? Can we, as part of a needed restoration, fix things that were broken even before Trump came along?  Do pre-Trump norms simply spring back into operation? What new laws do we need? Should we demand specific pledges by candidates? Does recovery require bipartisanship? Does it require a public reckoning?

Hillary Clinton brought up a lot of related issues in her essay in the Atlantic on Monday. But most of the press coverage was about her “slamming Trump.” The main argument – that our democratic institutions and traditions are under siege – was, I guess, too boring.

“The post-Trump era will be less frightening but more dull,” Mann writes. “It will be an unpleasant time for Americans. Not only do we demand entertainment, but we demand it from everyone, all the time…”

Brian Stelter, the host of “Reliable Sources” on CNN, addressed the issue on Sunday. “We’ve never seen a president like Donald Trump,” he said.

But in my humble opinion, we will never see a future president unlike him — at least when it comes to his use of TV. I have a sneaking feeling that every U.S. president from here on out will be a television star of some sort, maybe a lawmaker who knows how to create a TV moment, or a governor who knows how to throw a really great rally, or a businesswoman who knows how to connect through the camera.

It that inevitable? Or is there a way to engage the public in the work of democracy that doesn’t involve razzle-dazzle?

1 thought on “How will the next president keep the American people entertained?

  1. This, of course, is the core of Neil Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves to Death”. We are much further along the path to the Culture of Entertainment that he identified than we were 30 odd years ago.

    If Postman was right, we are creating an electorate that will vote on the basis of how entertaining a candidate is rather than the consequences of their vote.

    Best
    Jim

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