Young: Rating problem for GOP’s freak show (column)
The NFL’s ratings are down. Fox Sports commentator Colin Cowherd says he knows why. It’s not about quality of play or sidelined quarterbacks.
“It’s Donald Trump.” People are tuning out football for that guy.
True. The nation is transfixed. It can’t take its eyes off the Trump dumpster fire.
The thing is, such TV ratings are not what his party wants. No, siree.
Right now the GOP wants voters to flip to just about any other programming: tribal mating rituals in New Guinea, migratory fruit flies, the soufflé in French history.
No such luck. All Americans want to talk about is this man’s terrible behavior. Trump’s nomination has been exquisite for cable news, horrific for the Republican Party.
As Fivethirtyeight.com’s Nate Silver observed, the day after Trump’s “boys on the bus” audio clip went viral, Google searches for “Trump” were four times as high as “Trump” searches that were already at “insanely high” levels.
Again: not the kind of attention the GOP craves.
At this point, the higher Trump’s TV ratings are, the lower the party’s chances are in general. General, as in election.
Let’s face it. At this moment of ignominy, the last thing GOP leaders want people talking about is Donald Trump. And yet Americans can’t stop talking about him. For one, they can’t stop listening to loops of His Lewdness in action.
Talk about a mighty wind: Trump succeeded in blowing the most powerful tropical storm since Katrina right off our TV screens.
“He said what on ‘Access Hollywood’? Check out what he told Howard Stern.”
Trump started out as a novelty act. He has become a freak show — or if you will, a gore-filled wreck on the roadside. We cannot take our eyes off it, or him.
Again: very bad for the GOP.
A key point, though, is that this GOP ratings problem is not confined to Trump.
Republican leaders also would have been happy for Americans not to have gotten to know Ted Cruz so well. By and large, we are told, they hate him.
Thanks to the hardened sods of the Tea Party, however, in the nomination process, Cruz became Miss Runner-Up in the GOP’s Miss Absurdity Pageant in August.
What’s so wrong with that, you ask? Well, consider what has happened in Colorado. The GOP thought it had a chance against Sen. Michael Bennet. A well-financed, decidedly moderate (pro-choice) Republican, Jack Graham, stepped up to take him on. However, Cruz’s endorsement of a fellow Tea Party hard-liner served to deliver the nomination to barely known, lightly financed Darryl Glenn. Recent polls say Glenn is about to get stomped.
This dynamic has played out across the country. The face of the GOP is becoming increasingly unlike the rest of us, particularly as we become more diverse and more tolerant. The GOP puts forward freak-show acts like Sarah Palin, Sharron Angle, Allen West and Christine O’Donnell. They stir a core of frothy supporters, but they turn off a whole lot of voters.
Cruz? As one whose singular contribution to our government has been to shut it down, he has high TV ratings, with exactly the very kind of freak-show attention his party doesn’t desire. When he runs for re-election in 2018, he will give Texas Democrats the best opportunity in years to gain a Senate seat.
As for Trump, a ratings champion cruising to be an electoral loser: After being caught on tape being himself, he pledged to press on: “I will not let my followers down.”
To which my wife said, “It’s a little bit late for that.”
Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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