Recently, as Donald Trump whined about former FBI Director James Comey on Twitter, Barack Obama’s former Communications Director, and current CNN contributor and co-host of the popular political podcast Pod Save America Dan Pfeiffer made an interesting observation. Pfeiffer tweeted that Trump’s tweets were losing their ability to drive the conversation, and that the president was a one-trick pony whose one trick was starting to bore its audience. Now, if you’re familiar with Pod Save Donald Trumpor really the American “resistance” to Trump at all, you’ll be aware that Pfeiffer opposes Trump at every turn. He is an open partisan. He’s also a very sharp political mind, however, and he makes a point in this case that bears further discussion, or at least a very important question.
Is America actually getting bored with Trump?
Part of the foundation for this question is that the idea of politics as entertainment has reached new heights as regards American elections and governments. Not only is news regarding American politics available 24/7, but it’s coming as much from pundits as journalists. People supporting both sides of arguments are put on television and billed like sparring opponents such that viewers can look forward to seeing who wins an argument – not, necessarily, what the facts are.
This idea of competitive entertainment is further supported by the appearance of U.S. politics-related options in betting markets. In the U.S. this happens primarily through legal services like PredictIt, which skirt the tight gambling laws and allow for a certain type of speculation. Elsewhere, however, betting sites are more than happy to use politics to attract an audience. UK- and Europe-based companies are used to providing deals and perks to incentivize players to be active, but sometimes when something as juicy as Donald Trump’s impeachment odds is available for a wager, people are naturally inclined to bet. It’s all become fun, even if the specifics of the politics disgust plenty of people.
So the question of whether or not Trump is beginning to bore the American people might actually be best phrased a different way. Is this whole ludicrous chapter of United States political turmoil just not fun anymore?
The responsible answer for many who oppose Trump is that he was never fun. Sure, a political gaffe makes us laugh now and then, and this whole saga has been engaging. But opponents would argue that Trump’s temperament and policy have done far too much damage to far too many people’s lives to be considered fun. In a more general sense however, it’s all been theater, and there’s some indication – as Pfeiffer rightly pointed out – that people just don’t want to go to the show anymore.
Politico may have done the wisest write-up about this concept when it compared the second year of the Trump presidency to a second season on his old reality show, The Apprentice. The “sophomore slump” is associated with the show, and TV in general, and the article suggested that while no president has ever had such a firm grip on the public attention, Trump is no longer automatic publicity or viewership. Articles don’t always go viral just because his name’s in the headline, and his tweets don’t always command as much interest. Politico wrote this several months ago now, and yet the hypothesis sounds an awful lot like what Pfeiffer observed. That indicates this has been a sustained lull, and that slowly but surely signs are emerging that Trump is boring the public.
What consequences that may have for his overall popularity, or candidacy in 2020, remains to be seen.