A new season of The Apprentice has launched, and the backbiting is fiercer than ever. Old alliances are being broken as the antics get ever more outlandish in the quest to rise to the top of the attention economy.
In case you missed this week’s drama, here’s a quick recap: Republican Rep. Dan Crenshaw called the Freedom Caucus (whose members include Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert and Paul Gosar) “grifters” and “performance artists.” Radio host Dan Bongino fired back, calling Crenshaw a “false prophet.” Arizona Rep. Wendy Rogers tweeted that Crenshaw “must GO along with [Nancy] Mace and Ronna Romney [McDaniel]!!! Bye!”
This is the kind of stuff that would make Omarosa blush, but we’re just getting started. Fan favorite and QAnon-friendly lawyer Lin Wood also continued his attacks on Tucker Carlson and Dan Bongino, while taking additional shots at Sean Hannity, Charlie Kirk, and Seb Gorka. Wood also said he had “severed my relationship with General [Mike] Flynn,” calling most of what constitutes Conservative Inc. the “real Deep State media,” and saying “they’re all in it together.”
This all comes on the heels of the hate-triangle between Republican Reps. Boebert, Greene, and Mace. And as Donald Trump stirs up internal GOP dissension in Georgia.
The Republican-on-Republican action just keeps coming within the party that (amazingly) is poised to take control of Congress next year. And, thanks to Trump, even the ostensibly virtuous combatants like Mace must resort to insult comedy (like calling Greene batshit crazy and saying “bless her fucking heart”) to avoid becoming roadkill.
But what does this say about the GOP’s degraded culture? The terms of the debate have already been decided, and they are decidedly crude. The contestants may crack wise, but this is a barrel of crabs not a barrel of laughs.
Staying with seafood, the obvious explanation for why this is happening is that a fish rots from the head down. In a House Republican caucus meeting on Wednesday, Kevin McCarthy reportedly called on Republican members not to attack each other. But let’s be honest: McCarthy has little statutory authority and even less moral authority to police his own caucus members. He’s merely one of the contestants in this psycho game show, vying to bide his time, build alliances, and survive.
The problem? The “winner” receives what is tantamount to an internship with Trump. Imagine selling your soul and climbing the greasy pole, only to realize that when you get to the top that you’re still at the bottom. Anyone wanna guess what second place is?
Donald Trump is the undisputed de facto leader of the Republican Party. And like many bad bosses, he fosters a chaotic environment where everyone constantly looks over their shoulder. In his eyes, the only way to rise up is to tear each other down. Trump gets sadistic pleasure watching members of his “team” be publicly humiliated by their colleagues. He fosters this type of culture.
In a rational world, Trumpy Republicans would realize that playing Trump’s game is pointless. You’ll never be right-wing/crazy/loyal enough for Trump and his MAGA minions. Even if you temporarily make the cut, that just means you’re allowed to keep singing for your supper. There is no scenario where, after paying your dues, you get to call the shots. No, you will forever work for him. Of course, that’s assuming you don’t get taken out by “friendly fire.”
The current competitors in this sick reality show won’t heed this warning. They will keep playing the game until the ratings crash and the show gets canceled. And that could take decades, especially with Democrats inviting their own circular firing squads.
Making matters worse, not everyone on the right is LARPing. Some percentage of the people playing this game don’t even know they are contestants. Lin Wood might fit in this category (or else he’s one hell of an actor). Once your “side” embraces conspiracy theories, don’t be surprised when even some of the “leaders” believe them (and start thinking that maybe you’re a closet leftist). There’s a good chance that no matter how radical you are, it won’t be enough to appease whoever is trying to out-Trump you. The revolution devours its own.
Trump’s Fantasy Island: Apprentice Edition is looking more like Survivor every day. I wonder who’s getting voted off the island next?
Editor's Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly listed Matt Gaetz as a member of the Freedom Caucus.