Election 2016: 'Pop' goes the winner
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Donald TrumpDonald TrumpCuban embassy in Paris attacked by gasoline bombs Trump Jr. inches past DeSantis as most popular GOP figure in new poll: Axios Trump endorses Ken Paxton over George P. Bush in Texas attorney general race MORE can win.

No matter what you’ve heard from the talking heads, the polls, or the hipster at the bar, Trump can win. He has access to a machine that is uniquely American and compulsively entertaining.


Trump has pop culture. Not just pop culture, but an arm of pop culture whose popularity has outstripped the loftiest aims of its creators.

Reality television.

If culture is the set of ideas and arts that comprise a society, pop culture is the superficial, cotton candy version of that. Culture sends you the Metropolitan Museum of Art to gander at the Flemish masters. Pop culture fills your head with catchphrases and glitter.

Trump can market himself using pop culture in a way no other candidate has approached. There is a Trump board game. He was the headliner on The Apprentice. You can’t drive downtown in a major city without seeing his named plastered on something gold-plated and shiny. And you can’t even avoid him at the supermarket where you’ll often spot his face glaring back from the tabloids, right next to the Kardashians.

He’s been a fixture in pop culture for decades. He has always played a character named Donald Trump: A big, brash, loud, in-your-face personality who lives a flashy life, and isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. 

Not only does he know this, he embraces it, which is why people don’t change the channel when he goes on SaturdayNight Live to show off his dance moves. He can poke fun at himself. He can even appear likable in the moment to people who are inclined to argue with his viewpoints.

TV is big business in America. But what you might not know is that Americans spend 67 percent of their TV viewing time watching reality shows — they can’t help themselves. Reality TV is theater without the script; it’s the unrehearsed, real deal. Granted, nobody says reality TV is amazing. Even the most passionate viewer talks about their favorite show with a disclaimer: “I know it’s not great, but it’s my guilty pleasure.”

Trump is that guilty pleasure. 

He’s also up against a woman who struggles with her unlikeable and out-of-touch image.

Marketing has always been the same, even though the medium changes: You invent a product and then tell people where to find it. With Trump you already know where to find him. If you’re staying abreast of current events, it’s almost impossible not to be aware of what he’s up to. You don’t even have to follow him on Twitter because the media and your Facebook friends share his posts daily. 

David Ogilvy, generally considered the godfather of advertising, said “Political advertising should be stopped. It's the only really dishonest kind of advertising that's left. It's totally dishonest.” Herein lies all of the clout that Trump can wield at the populace. He need not rely on political advertising, which by definition is inherently dishonest. Everything he does—everything he has done for the past couple of decades—is all advertising for himself.  

This might not look like a strategy, but it could turn out to be the only strategy that matters. Trump is often dismissed by the media—“Surely his political career is over now that he’s [insert apparent gaffe]”—yet he soldiers on, holding fast to the public spotlight. He doesn’t have to claw his way into new media channels and pop culture references because he’s been in them the whole time. Good grief, you hear more about Trump’s latest tweets than about the policy visions of other candidates!

Democrats have shown a knack at using media to make the public fall in love with them. A campaign is like a courtship with the highest stakes. Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonFor families, sending money home to Cuba shouldn't be a political football Anything-but-bipartisan 1/6 commission will seal Pelosi's retirement. Here's why Could Andrew Cuomo — despite scandals — be re-elected because of Trump? MORE whipped people into a lather with a late-night sax solo and MTV spots. Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama setting up big bash to celebrate his 60th A path to climate, economic and environmental justice is finally on the horizon Emergency infrastructure needed to keep Americans safe: Public media MORE probably had as many Facebook likes and shares as any picture of Grumpy Cat. They both wooed people who then couldn’t wait to cast their votes. Well, Republicans, time to show that you’re legitimate students of history: here’s a chance to learn a thing or two from a few candidates who whipped their opponents from pillar to post.

Trump is the nominee. Full stop. For anyone who thinks things should have gone another way, well, tough. They didn’t go another way. The time has come to focus on winning, not whining. The reality is that Republicans have always wanted a media savvy candidate. Not a cyborg like Mitt Romney. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMeghan McCain on Pelosi, McCarthy fight: 'I think they're all bad' Democrats seek to counter GOP attacks on gas prices Biden nominates Jeff Flake as ambassador to Turkey MORE never managed to make “Get off my lawn!” sound cool. Trump can do it. He’s someone who knows how to win.

If the Republicans want their candidate in the White House, they need to wrap their arms around him, throw their support behind him, and use the fact that he is an icon of pop culture to help shape the country they say they want.

Reality TV should not be as popular as it is. But here we are, more than half of the population watching it. Those who scoff at the idea of Trump winning have no idea how pop culture works. As Hillary scrambles to get her foot into anything hip, Trump is already an icon. Political theater has never been so literal. 

Tate is a Conservative Columnist and Author of the new book, "Government Gone Wild: How D.C. Politicians Are Taking You For a Ride and what You can Do About It"

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