Playing For Empty Chairs (Notes On Trump Puppets, or “Trumpets”)


RE: “Pundits Achieve Cable-News Stardom After Converting Into Donald Trump Supporters | The Washington Post

Donald Trump isn’t the only one who’s benefited from essentially free media attentionThough nowhere near the estimated $2 billion he’s received, his supporters have made the most of newfound popularity and attention. Especially Kayleigh McEnany and Scottie Nell Hughes. Of them (as well as Adriana Cohen), Callum Borchers of The Washington Post writes:

[T]hey aren’t paid by the campaign or, with the exception McEnany and [Jeffrey] Lord, by the cable channels — but for fame that could eventually lead to a payday and in the meantime represents its own kind of currency.

There are several interesting dynamics here.

First, though certainly a bargain, Trump’s earned media isn’t really free. Some significant portion of it surely has been “bought” by his celebrity. Indeed, one might even consider his celebrity the dividend returned on a thirty-year investment starting with the first printing of The Art Of The Deal.

However haphazard and random the Trump phenomenon may seem, the path to announcing his candidacy (unbelievably, one year ago today) now seems like the product of shrewd and careful cultivation. It seems the management of a brand—like so much a matter of personality as product—that Trump’s path to a possible presidency now seems very much like that of living one’s public life as a brand.

In this way, the Trump phenomenon is also an example of a certain breed of values, particularly those connected to the idea that a successful businessman necessarily has a good chance of being a successful politician. To believe this, one has to believe that government should be run like a business. So of course a business man would be better at the helm than a politician.

There are no compelling arguments for these ideas, nor is history conclusive on them. For every Michael Bloomberg, there’s at least one Herbert Hoover, if not more.

Despite all the talk of populism infecting the Republican Party, I sense distinctly neoliberal values backgrounding the link between business and political leadership. Subsequently, I also detect it in the rise of the Trumpets, the name I now use for Donald Trump’s surrogates.

There’s certainly a sense in which casting their lots with the Republican nominee has been a great investment for McEnany and Hughes, who otherwise would have no way to reap such “dividends” as theyre now receiving.

Indeed, the true pay-off for McEnany and Hughes in particular is a kind of a double game I see them playing in the near future—if they’re not playing it now.

With so many traditional Republican voices taken down a notch or two because they could neither “evolve” towards Trumpism, nor make forceful and compelling arguments against it, Trump loyalists and surrogates like McEnany and Hughes are not only positioning themselves as chief cheerleaders should their candidate win, but also in the front row of Hillary haters should he lose.

Already I see commentators like them throwing some real shade toward Secretary Clinton, and I marvel at how they can turn any rip on Trump into a bigger rip on Hillary. Should they end up with nice jobs and nice paychecks post-election, I expect that even Sarah Palin will be riding shotgun along with the gang, too.

That said, whatever will be left of the GOP after both Clinton and Trump do their part in dismantling it will need as may white women (particularly blond ones) as it can find to constantly attack a president who already has much higher negatives than one would expect from the presumptive winner.

However, while I don’t see McEnany or Hughes getting into the same sort of controversy as Cohen and thereby ruining their chances for the big time, I do see another, potentially larger, risk.

Trumpets have an awful knack of defending their patron no matter what he does or says. They also show a disturbing tendency to hammer home whatever message Trump commands. While I’ve seen McEnany waver a bit during her defense of Trump through the controversy over Judge Curiel, for instance—which I take as a good sign—I’ve seen Hughes dive in wholeheartedly, almost as if she has no sense of self-reflection.

I sense a lack discernment in her zealousness, which could hurt The Trumpets as a group long-term.


IMAGE SOURCE: By Altair78 (talk). Based on a picture by Doug Waldron. [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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