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How Trump Became an American Idol

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To understand the Trump phenomenon, consider the world of reality TV where he first forged his bond with the public. THE APPRENTICE ran for 14 years, and at its height averaged 11,000,000 weekly viewers–the same number of voters Trump’s received in the combined GOP primaries.

Another popular reality show, AMERICAN IDOL, featured a singer named Sanjaya Malakar, who became a 2007 sensation not in spite of poor singing and cringe-worthy performances, but because of them. The more judges like Simon Cowell blasted Sanjaya’s ineptitude, the more votes he got from rebellious viewers striking back against figures of authority on air.

In the same way, whenever pundits or politicos blast Trump as un-presidential or childish, he gains support from backers who use his unconventional success to mock the system.

Perhaps Trump can’t win a general election, but regardless of his inane comments and vulgar shenanigans, he can’t lose among the bemused millions who savor his ongoing reality show.

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