It’s the Media, Stupid

Michael Rosenblum
3 min readJan 16, 2024
Image courtesy Wikicommons

Today, one day after the Iowa caucuses, the newspapers, the Internet and TV are filled with analyses of why Donald Trump was able to garner what was essentially a landslide victory in this first Republican primary.

While many opinions are offered as to how and why a two-time impeached candidate was able to essentially sweep the Iowa vote, ranging from the economy, the perceptions of the economy, the discontent of a portion of the country, the wealth gap and lots more, almost no one that I have seen or read has touched on what I think is the glaringly obvious cause.

Elon Musk’s great success with Tesla, (now valued at 12x GM and 13x Ford) was even though other people were making electric cars, he thought they all looked like golf carts. There was nothing about them that would make someone want to buy the car. So he focused on design. He focused on what he called ‘the driver experience’. The car sales took off.

Steve Jobs had the same insight when he was running Apple. IBM had better engineering, as did Microsoft, but Jobs focused on ‘the user experience’, and Apple today is one of the most valuable companies in the world.

When we restructure TV new operations, we don’t focus on the set or the graphics. We focus on ‘the viewer experience’. That, after all, is who is watching.

If you want to understand Iowa, and why, most likely, Trump is going to be returned to the White House, you have to focus not on policy. There is not one voter in a thousand who cares about policy, even if wonks in the beltway are fixated on it.

What then constitutes what we might call ‘the voter experience’? To understand that, you have to understand who is voting and what shapes their world. All the expensive political focus groups in the world, and there are a lot of the, all seem to miss this very basic metric.

The average American now spends an astonishing 8 hours a day, every day, watching TV or videos or movies. That is who we are as a society. The same people spend 19 minutes a day reading. Want to understand what drives American voters, spend some time watching Netflix.

Neil Postman called this some forty years ago with his seminal book, Amusing Ourselves to Death. His predictions has now come true. We are a culture entirely driven by entertainment. Like a moth to a flame, we are captured not by policy or taxes or immigrants or impeachments. We are captured by entertainment.

Donald Trump may be many things, but one thing he sure is is entertaining. Endlessly entertaining. He is the consummate TV showman, having spent 10 years being taught by the master of TV entertainment, Mark Burnett.

When voters look at Trump or DeSantis or Haley, they see the world through the lens of entertainment. That’s their touchstone for all things. And given the choice between The Donald Trump Show and The Ron DeSantis Show, well, there’s not even a contest. That’s why The Ron DeSantis Show is going to be cancelled. Lack of viewership. That’s also why The Joe Biden Show is probably also going to be cancelled in November. No one really wants to watch it for another season.

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Michael Rosenblum

Co-Founder TheVJ.com, Father of Videojournalism, trained 40,000+ VJs. Built VJ-driven networks worldwide. Video Revolution. Founder CurrentTV, NYTimes TV. etc..