During Tuesday night’s debate, Trump proved once and for all — if you needed further proof — that he’s little more than an obnoxious entertainer, and ‘entertainer’ in the vein of some annoying freak in tights on WWE’s SmackDown Live. He’s in the realm of the professional wrestler, but without any of the physical skills required for actual combat in the ring. He’s all talk, with personal attacks and lies. He interrupted Joe Biden so many times during Tuesday Night Raw that Biden told him to shut up.
Trump’s supporters are really fans. They like his style, not his substance because, of course, there is no substance. Trump’s fans mistake his nastiness for audacity. They mistake loud for smart, obnoxious for tough, ridicule for insight. They liked Trump on “The Apprentice,” which turns out to be, based on the New York Times’ reporting, the most successful of Trump’s business ventures. Otherwise, he appears to be a terrible and untrustworthy businessman. As president, there is little on his record to laud, unless you’re among the nation’s wealthiest citizens or an overseas investor. So, when you look for the source of Trump’s popularity among that base of his — and still way too many Americans, overall, considering his horrible mishandling of the pandemic — you arrive at this conclusion: Some people find him entertaining, the way they find some insufferable wrestler (Ric Flair comes to mind) entertaining.
And then there’s the Limbaugh Effect. For better than 30 years, Rush Limbaugh has filled the airwaves with right-wing invective, and he inspired many other talk-show hosts across the fruited plain to do the same. Add Fox “News” to the mix, and you have a constant howling wind of insults, snark and ad hominem attacks. Trump looked at the ratings — he saw years ago that being in-your-face obnoxious attracted followers — so it should be no stunning revelation that his popularity is based on his entertainment value, his ability to shock.
Last night, he was obnoxious and little else. He refused to denounce white supremacy. He might truly be a racist — I believe that he is — but he says and does things out of only one foundational belief: It will be good for his ratings, good for business, good for Trump.