Commentary

Carne Or Carney? Donald Trump And The Masses

Sometimes, when politicians want to energize their followers -- or, to put it less diplomatically, to pander to their audiences -- they are said to throw  “red meat” at the base.

But leading Republican presidential contender Donald Trump does that on a much more literal basis. In a recent press conference after his big wins in Michigan and Mississippi, he actually stood next to a table festooned with red meat -- and Trump wine, vodka, and water -- to show reporters and admirers assembled in the room in Jupiter, Fla., that he makes products that sell. Take that, Mitt Romney!

It was obvious product placement and bottom-of-the-barrel hucksterism, but almost biblical, too, in suggesting that Trump's some sort of magician, in the turning-water-into-wine sense.

Still, the lavish display presented another of those surreal Trumpian moments. Very quickly post-conference, the press determined that with the exception of  Trump water, (circulated at Trump properties) none of the other products is still sold, or even his.

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For instance, this was not a Trump steak, but rather a Bush Bros product. (Although said Brothers, no relation to the politicians, do a fair amount of business with the Trump Organization.)

Indeed, the beef hasn’t been sold under the Trump label since 2009, when it was sold via QVC and The Sharper Image, and later, like the vodka and Trump magazine, was discontinued.

The online reviews for the meat were decidedly mixed, like this one: "Nothing but grease, and shrinkage is astonishing! Bought both steaks and burgers, would not purchase again. No redeeming qualities."

Perhaps Trump thought the journalists present were not the media geniuses he is. And in many cases, he’d be right. In every category involving image and media manipulation, Trump has “outwitted, outlasted, and outplayed” the competition -- to borrow a phrase from “Survivor,” another show in the reality genre that he has also conquered.

In some quarters, this confounding, all-engulfing Trumpian savvy is being blamed for what is now known as the “great crack-up” of the Republican Party.

All those big, powerful rich guys who had such plans for “low-energy” Jeb!

Even more perplexing is how a coddled rich kid like the Donald from Queens, who avoided the military due to bone spurs in his feet (private military boarding school doesn’t count) is now embraced as the macho, authoritarian savior of the U.S. after seven years of weak, “no-drama” Obama.

Still crazier: A thin-skinned guy who became a billionaire by squeezing his small-time vendors and routinely playing the banks, bankruptcy courts and the press like violins, is now the chosen voice of the alienated working class.

How? One simple answer is that, much as he did with real estate, publishing and his TV show, he saw an opening and exploited it. Like Steve Jobs, he somehow recognized that every tiny detail of the brand has to communicate as part of the cohesive whole. 

He started with a book, “The Art of the Deal,” and then used every press opportunity associated with the book to establish himself as a self-made rich guy and “winner.” He developed this personality and recognizable voice to such an extent that decades later, Trump is the only political candidate around now with an unerring mastery of Twitter.

The other campaigns have put perhaps hundreds of junior staffers on social media, so that the message comes out as committee-approved — and no longer human.  (This has been known to happen with non-hominid brands, like packaged goods, too.) Of course, Trump doesn’t rely on consultants and advisers in the traditional sense ever, and that all builds up his challenger, anti-establishment brand cred.

And although he might be endowed with “average-sized" hands, he has a giant sense of brand-building. No other rich developer routinely splayed his moniker in giant gold letters on his buildings, helicopters, or private planes the way he did. (It just seemed un-American in those days!)  

But the extreme non-humility worked hugely to his advantage on “The Apprentice," when he could land on a rooftop and have his acolytes treat him as Superman. (Look, up in the sky, it’s Mr. Trump!)

The orchestration of the boardroom was like The Last Supper, with the golden one sitting across from his acolytes in the middle of the giant polished table, advisers on each side.

When not exuding Biblical symbolism, “The Apprentice” was the “upscale” reality show that wrote the book on product placement and embedded sponsorships. It was so successful because of a specific NBC strategy: the audience numbers had dropped precipitously from the first season, but it turned out to be a sufficient enough “earner” (as Tony Soprano liked to put it) from product placement alone.

Study it carefully enough, and you will also see that embedded in "The Apprentice" was much of the Don’s profile now as a candidate.

According to Jennifer Pozner, author of “Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV,” the show had built-in gender and racial biases from the start. It was responsible for the “angry black woman” meme of Omarosa, which spread to other shows, like “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.”

In addition, Trump exhibited a “very sketchy definition of business ethics," says Pozner. "The way that contestants could win challenges rested only on the question of who raised the most money, not how they raised it. Did they beg, borrow, steal, cheat, or screw someone to do it?”

You’ll recall that part of Trump’s original contretemps with Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly was about the suggestive way he addressed one of the women on the show. “Not all of the women used their sexuality to succeed,” Pozner says. “The ones who didn’t were left on the cutting-room floor. They figured out how to get screen time or get fired.”

Pozner notes that if Trump himself “behaved in the actual workplace like the way he behaved on his show, he would be sued over and over for gender and libel discrimination.”

Obviously, Trump learned a lot from his years on “The Apprentice." He knows how to get screen time and not end up on the cutting-room floor.

His problem now, however, is the ugliness and bullying he is stoking in his rallies. Even though he recently asked the crowd to raise their right hands if they intended to vote for him, it’s not quite Hitlerian. That analogy is inapt, because it reduces the exterminations of the Holocaust to the scripted antics of a WWE event. 

But if nothing changes in the violent, scary way the security detail is treating people of color and Muslims who attend his rallies, we might actually see a Trump crack-up.

After all, "Running the country is not a crazy television show. It's supposed to be serious. It's our country, it's our lives." Truer words were never said. Thank you, Jerry Springer.

Trump seems tired. Perhaps it’s dawning on him that in aiming to lead the country and the world, he’s bitten off more than he can chew. After all, every brand has its limits.

19 comments about "Carne Or Carney? Donald Trump And The Masses".
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  1. brad berger from aim high tips, March 10, 2016 at 5:30 p.m.

    Carney for sure. Any comparison to Hitler and the Holocaust is insulting to Jews. Running the country is the best reality show going and it goes on and on. 

  2. James Sanfilippo from Innocean Worldwide Americas, March 10, 2016 at 5:40 p.m.

    I'm permanently guilty of being clueless about my good spouse's pattern of thinking, not fathoming the nuances, complexity, fickleness and ability to trancend linear thought she so woefully possesses.

    You, respectfully, Ms. Lippert, are so overthinking Mr. Trump's viceral simplicity, that its painful. 
    Trump, like most men, is a simple creature. Nuance? Nah. Diplomacy? Huh? Foot in mouth? Frequently. Sense of humor/grain of salt? Every minute. To the Donald, life is negotiation. The sooner you grasp this simplicity, the more comfortable you'll be in his universe.

    You're welcome.

  3. Dean Fox from ScreenTwo LLC, March 10, 2016 at 5:48 p.m.

    It's no wonder Trump seems tired.  He's never had to work so long, so hard to make a deal (or a sale!)  But it's his act that's really tired.  In the general election, his outrageous lies and misrepresentations will be shown for what they are, figments of his imagination.  

    And this is a guy who says he's never had a drink or taken drugs. I didn't know it was possible to hallucinate on ego and insecurity alone!

  4. Tom Scharre from The Hunch Fund, March 10, 2016 at 6:09 p.m.

    It's not the meat, it's the motion.

  5. Paula Chiocchi from Outward Media, Inc., March 10, 2016 at 6:53 p.m.

    Thank you for your article today……..what a great read!


     I have to wonder are we at the point in American history that we would elect someone like Trump? Has America really dumbed down to this level? Makes me think of the rise and fall ofthe Roman empire which is a sobering thought.H opefully come election time the masses will have a change of heart. As for being comfortable in his universe who wants to be? Keep up the fantastic writing!


     


     


     


     


     


     


     


     


     


     


     

  6. Ruth Thomas from Second helping, March 10, 2016 at 6:54 p.m.

    Great article....I wish this was a commentary on a piece of fiction ( as you did with Madmen) the reality is so frightening and alarming.....the lines have been crossed and blurred....people have always said that the general public is smarter than you think...I am beginning not to think that it is so

  7. Jane Farrell from Freelance replied, March 10, 2016 at 8:05 p.m.

    Trump, like a heat-seeking missile, has instinctively homed in on the bottomless anger of people who feel that the country is fast becoming a place lthey don't recognize any more (the Mexicans! the Muslims!) I think the hostility has been fueled by the "comments-section" phenomena, where vitriol is spewed anonymously and whips up hundreds of other readers who feel the same way. And of course, on the Internet, anything you say must be true. Opinion is disguised as fact - and that doesn't improve the dialogue.

    Unfortunately, this atmosphere of ignorance and hatred will not be dissipated no matter who wins the White House in November. 

  8. Chuck Lantz from 2007ac.com, 2017ac.com network, March 10, 2016 at 9:20 p.m.

    When I saw "Carne or Carney" in the title, I expected to see the much more apt "carnie" somewhere in the article, since that description fits Trump to a capital T, especially since Art Carney, though far from smart, was at least good-hearted. 

    For those not familiar with the term, and not willing to hit Google, a "carnie" is a usually very shady travelling carnival worker, often well-versed in the various ways to cheat the local rubes out of their dollars, via rigged side-show games, etc.

  9. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, March 10, 2016 at 9:30 p.m.

    Actually, the rise of dictators throughout history came about this way. Read people. Read. And yes, this was the way religions became powerful. Truth does not have a place in the Pied Piper tales. (Fairy Tales were written as political tretises that would have been banned with the press e.g. writers killed for any sort of truth or opinions in any kind of paper/vellum.) All of those angry people complaining about salaries going nowhere, although true, are not smart enough to know that the government on any level cannot dictate raises for workers in private companies, only minimum wage which has been denied by they same polititcian who have been inciting riots. And this is just for starters. 

  10. Betsy Busch from ODC , March 11, 2016 at 12:48 a.m.

    You nailed it, once again. Such an expert at manipulation and such a terrifying prospect if he makes it to home plate in November.

  11. Patrick Scullin from Ames Scullin O'Haire, inc., March 11, 2016 at 8:38 a.m.

    Wonderful analysis, Barbara. Trump has all the answers to all our problems, and they're all easy! He will wipe away our fears and make America great again!

    What's not to like?  

    Lest we forget, someone told us Iraq would celebrate our invasion and the war would only last a couple weeks and the seeds of democracy would be planted and take hold.


  12. Robert Rosenthal from Rosenthal Heavy Industries, March 11, 2016 at 9:39 a.m.

    It reminds me that The Apprentice, among SO MANY OTHER super successful shows, is the work of Mark Burnett, who is, in my estimation, a genius at this kind of thing. Makes me wonder whether he has some behind the scene role in Trump's (aka President Pig Vomit) campaign.

  13. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited replied, March 11, 2016 at 9:59 a.m.

    Speaking of Mark Burnett, isn't he the same dude who keeps pushing the false gods of religion down people's throats, making up stories and dialog to suit his platforms ? 

  14. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, March 11, 2016 at 2:12 p.m.

    Usually we expect Godwin's Law to take place in the comments, not in the article itself.

  15. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston replied, March 11, 2016 at 2:29 p.m.

    Carny is the preferred spelling, as with carny slang, aka carny talk.

  16. Chuck Lantz from 2007ac.com, 2017ac.com network replied, March 11, 2016 at 8:05 p.m.

    Donald: Yup, I went back and forth on the correct spelling between "carnie" and "carny", with help from online dictionaries. Since both appeared about equal, I flipped a coin. Then, out of nowhere this guy named "Anton" appeared and things quickly went South.

  17. Kenneth Hittel from Ken Hittel replied, March 12, 2016 at 12:49 p.m.

    We dumbed down a long time ago. "We" elected Nixon; "we" elected ronnie Reagan. "We" elected W. So, sure, however unfortunately for us, "we" can indeed elect Trump.

  18. Chuck Lantz from 2007ac.com, 2017ac.com network, March 12, 2016 at 8:21 p.m.

    I'll add one more "Trump comparison" to the growing list, right below Benito Mussolini. (And would someone PLEASE put together some side-by-side video clips of Il Duce and The Donald, both strutting with heads just a bit too high, and chins and lower-lips thrust forward. I'm sure Trump will soon be putting his fists on his hips as he surveys a crowd of adoring supporters, moving left and right, ... very, very Right)

    But I digress. My new addition to the list involves another Apprentice; ... the one who served the Sorcerer in both music and in Disney's Fantasia.  Though the comparison is not direct, it's derivative, sorta.  In the case of Trump, his initially slow but rapidly accelerating and unexpected rise to violently dangerous power mimics the magical broom, which continues to multiply, completely out of control, every time it's bashed and splintered by the person who originally created it; ...  the poor apprentice.

    In Trump's case; the Far Right conservatives who kept adding fuel to the fires of hatred are the Apprentice.  They kept raising the hatred bar, and constantly added spokespersons who were just a bit scarier than their predecessors, and switching-out candidates who were simply  a bit nuts with ones who were certifiably insane. 

    And eventually, as should have been expected, the evil they nurtured and thought they could control took on a life of its own, complete with goofy hair that kind of resembles a poorly-made broom, if the light's just right.  

    Anyway, I'm done, for now anyway.  If anyone knows how to contact the Sorcerer so that he, or she, can put the broom(s) away, please let me know. 

  19. Jim English from The Met Museum, March 15, 2016 at 1:09 a.m.

    I was waiting for Clara Peller to step forward at Trump's steak and vodka presentation to ask that simple question,  "Where's the beef?"   But alas, no.
    As you point out,  Barbara, the leading Republican presential candidate is without substance.

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