This weekend Donald Trump is hosting Saturday Night Live, and to the chagrin of the GOP, everyone knows it will be a ratings hit. The Donald will have an hour and a half to make jokes at the expense of his Republican opponents and boost his brand, and there is nothing the GOP establishment can do about it. Trump has ridiculed, belittled, and comically dismissed anyone who has challenged him thus far, and now he will have the perfect platform to do more of it.
Trump wants everyone to laugh at the GOP. The more people who laugh at the GOP establishment, the better his chances will be.
At this point, no one knows what jokes will make it to air, but I have a couple suggestions. Given Trump’s obsession about the energy levels of a few of his opponents, it would be criminal to not have a skit involving a Trump energy drink to revive the GOP’s low-energy candidates.
A Political Apprentice skit is also a must. Trump has already told a handful of candidates that they should drop out of the race, so why not comically fire them on SNL? Don’t tell me you wouldn’t like to see Jack McBrayer, who played Kenneth the Page on 30 Rock, bring back his Bobby Jindal impression and get fired from the presidential race by Trump.
Of course, he will also take jabs at Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. But the most damaging thing about Trump’s SNL appearance won’t be the jokes. The mere fact that he’s on SNL is more damaging to the GOP than any particular thing he might say. Remember, this is NBC we’re talking about, the very network that the Republican National Committee has “gone to war” with in the wake of the CNBC debate fiasco.
And in response to the RNC’s attempt to control the situation, many of the candidates, including Trump, met without the RNC to discuss ways to have more control over future debates. At that point, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus had to conduct an emergency media blitz to ensure the public that the RNC was still in charge: “The truth is, we’re involved, we’re in control. We’re setting the calendar.”
These are assurances that Priebus never planned on having to make.
But the party’s newly tense relationship with NBC means nothing to Trump (in any event, his SNL appearance was arranged before the debate), and the RNC’s kerfuffle with NBC News means nothing to SNL. Trump does not even care that NBC cut ties with him months ago following his disparaging comments about Mexican immigrants.
The RNC’s actions mean nothing because Trump is the ratings king. In this world, politics fall a distance second behind entertainment and money.
Trump is thumbing his nose at the RNC and the rest of the GOP establishment, and his success in doing so has only emboldened the rest of the GOP presidential field to act similarly. He is creating chaos amongst the Republican field, and while the rest of the GOP frantically attempts to figure out what to do next, Trump will ridicule and weaken them from the podium, on the stump, and humorously (he hopes) on SNL with millions of Americans watching.
The GOP is not the only group that are or should be bothered by Trump’s appearance on SNL. Many Latino groups across the nation have disseminated petitions asking for NBCUniversal to rescind its invitation for Trump to appear on the show because of his offensive statements regarding Mexican immigrants and his controversial plans to erect a wall along the border and deport millions of undocumented immigrants. Many groups have spread the hashtag #RacismIsntFunny to further express their point of view.
These petitions have collectively garnered more than 520,000 signatures, and scores of people plan on protesting outside NBC Studios at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. When Trump was asked at a recent press conference about the planned protests, he said, “I think they should demonstrate. Ratings will go even higher than they are going to be. It is going to be one of the highest rated shows ever.”
In other words, Trump doesn’t care much about what people say or what they think. He only cares if they watch. He knows that countless Latinos will tune in. Some will hate him, and a sliver might like him, but no matter what they think, if they watch him, he wins. If they watch him and then decide to like him more, then he doubly wins.
Politics in Trumpworld is all about attention, and using the accrued leverage to bend political adversaries, and news and entertainment entities, to his will. Substance or politics comes after entertainment, money, and power.
Much of the GOP reviles Trump, but he is also a monster of its own creation. A Trump candidacy would not be possible without the Republican Party’s near-feverish disdain for President Barack Obama, and the vile birther movement that questioned Obama’s presidential legitimacy. Those postures gave Trump a mainstream and an extreme platform to spout his entertaining political nonsense.
And the conservative movement’s mad rush to infuse more and more money into politics via court decisions like Citizens United (ironically stemming from a failed attempt to derail Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid) has given Trump and his billions the political/financial influence that most politicians could not have imagined. Trump could spend a billion of his own money, receive no political donations or contributions, and he’d still be a billionaire.
Trump has an hour and a half this Saturday night to enhance his presidential aspirations and significantly damage other GOP candidates, the RNC, and the GOP establishment. If he’s entertaining and the ratings are through the roof, expect more opportunities to follow. Scores of Americans will hope that Trump bombs, but we’re all going to watch. And in doing so, Trump would have again seized more control of the strange political, entertainment charade that has engulfed the Republican presidential race. For those that tune in on Saturday, I’m sure there will be some good laughs, and most of them will be at the expense of the GOP.