When Jerry Springer approached Donald Trump with his idea of a Republican primary reality show, Trump was intrigued. His “Apprentice” show was getting stale, and the idea of a political reality show seemed brilliant – look at the popularity of “House of Cards.” Moreover, the Republicans were willing to move their primaries back to April, recognizing the futility of a long campaign. As GOP Chair Reince Priebus noted, “after the chaos of a reality show primary, people will be relieved to find out Mitt Romney is again our candidate.”
Unlike past reality shows, which aired only an hour or so a week, this would air on the main news channels. CNN, FOX and MSNBC would start airing the show in the summer of 2015, and if the ratings were good they could increase coverage. Not only did they do that, but Springer has been able sell rights to air the reality show to other TV stations. By September virtually every major media outlet signed on, earning Springer hundreds of millions of dollars.
In recent weeks, however, the popularity of the show has been overshadowed by the fact that many people believe it IS reality – that Donald Trump is actually leading the Republican primary field ahead of a Joe McCarthyesque creepy Texan who Springer originally thought wouldn’t be realistic as a Presidential candidate.
Trump is amazed but enjoys the publicity. “I love it,” he said. “It makes me think I might run for real someday!” Then he smiles. “Just kidding.” Trump studied footage of Benito Mussolini in order to play a “political boss.” “My role is to be a bully, to attack and get reactions from the contestants. Apparently I’m very believable.”
Ted Cruz, played by gay rights activist actor Laurent de Silva said that his role model was Joe McCarthy. “What scares me when I’m out in public is how many people come up and agree with my character. I tell them I’m gay and they get a shocked look and walk away. Hilarious.” De Silva thinks the people fooled into thinking the show is real are ‘low information voters.’ “They just turn on the TV and assume whatever is on is the truth.”
Jeb Bush, who played himself in a kind of cameo, said it was fun to be on stage. “I enjoyed it, but certainly didn’t take it seriously. They wanted me to stay on longer but I really had things I wanted to do.”
Former hip hop star Tyrone Three Chains said he loved playing Ben Carson. “Man, a black brain surgeon who talks like he’s on Quaaludes and takes outlandish right wing positions one expects from stuck up white Jesus freaks – gotta love that role. I honestly don’t think I fooled anyone, I mean, I was going for humor!”
Many reporters covering the reality show are upset that they are fooling people into believing a farce. “I’m a real news woman,” said Meagan Kelly of Fox. “But the ratings are so good and they doubled my salary to play Trump’s nemesis so…it is a business first, after all.”
As the show nears its climax next week, we’re told to expect violent protests, renewed in fighting, a scandal and some scuffles with the media. “It’ll be lots of fun,” insisted Springer, “with a few surprises.”
Trump, who has put his actual support behind the Bernie Sanders campaign, says that when the show is over he expects a lot of confusion from people who were fooled. “I do reality shows good because I play myself. Yes, I’m a con man. We’ve done everything to go over the top with it, including parading products I don’t even sell any more – that were failures – and people eat it up.” Trump shakes his head. “It sort of scares me.”
Hillary Clinton, who is running in a real primary scoffs off the hype. “More people are engaged in the reality show than real politics and that should worry us. Still, Donald is a friend of mine and I’m hooked. It’ll be disappointing next month when we have to deal with the real Republican campaign.”