Presidential Race or Reality Show?

In a communication blitz of global overdrive, the Information Highway to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is intersected by four major crossroads: Catty Court, Deceptive Drive, Audacious Avenue and one less travelled: The Fair Way.

The President of the United States of America (POTUS) is the elected head of state -- a position of great honor and respect. Presidential candidates are meant to embody the spirit of the American people: acknowledge demands, accept challenges and unite the country during their four-year term.

With a multitude of contenders announcing, preparing to announce or sitting on the fence, The 2016 Presidential Race: A Cheat Sheet has been created. Okay for some, but as a nod to growing trends, I salute CNN for creating emoji candidates.

National Journal writer Ron Fournier has been vocal about the potential consequences of this election for many years. In 2013, he wrote, "The 2016 presidential election is ripe for the emergence of a game-changing political leader, who either dramatically reforms one of the existing parties or mounts an independent bid."

Of all the "game-changing political leaders" in the ring, reality television host, investor and American business magnate Donald Trump Sr. has emerged as the main contender. Trump seems to be more focused on tainting the opposition's character rather than championing his own cause.

With a zero degree of separation between brain and mouth -- turning fleeting thoughts into indelible words -- what happened to respect? After many well-documented contentious comments and postings, Trump crossed the line referencing a sexist joke about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

In a retweet, a Trump staffer "managed to capture one of the coarsest background conversations Americans are having about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's personal baggage."

"If Hillary Clinton can't satisfy her husband, what makes her think she can satisfy America?" Eventually deleted by Trump, the sexist retweet offended many social media followers.

Clinton, elected to the U.S. Senate in 2001, became the only American First Lady to hold national office. One of the strongest candidates for the Democratic nomination, she retaliated with a dedicated stand against "unacceptable political behavior" and a directive: take responsibility for your actions.

"I think we have to speak out against it. Like, for example, a recent entry into the Republican presidential campaign said some very inflammatory things about Mexicans. Everybody should stand up and say that's not acceptable."

"It was appalling to hear Donald Trump describe immigrants as drug dealers, rapists and criminals," Mrs. Clinton said at the National Council of La Raza's gathering of about 1,500 guests at a luncheon hosted by the Hispanic civil rights group. "He's talking about people you and I know . . . So I have just one word for Mr. Trump," and, using the Spanish word for "enough", forcefully said, "Basta!"

Add media frenzy and public fixation to the mix, and the spectacle morphs into a reality show where ordinary people are continuously filmed, designed to be entertaining rather than informative.

Social media is abuzz with the return of the quadrennial blockbuster. As Diane M. Francis explains in her Huffington Post article: "My favorite reality television series -- the US Presidential Primary Season -- is about to begin with this weekend's expected announcement of Hillary Clinton's candidacy. This political extravaganza combines American Idol, or an open-microphone audition, with Survivor in which contestants are voted 'off the island' if they fail to collect enough votes in electoral primary contests."

Taken from James A. Thurber's piece in Campaigns and Elections American Style, "Campaigns are wars, battles for the hearts and minds, but most importantly for the votes of the American people." Thurber goes on to draw comparisons to "an elaborate form of entertainment -- a stage show -- with the players often acting as puppets whose strings are being pulled at precise moments behind the curtain."

Cue hair, make-up, ridicule, contempt and disdain; the lead-up to the 58th presidential election is clearly on track, as a diverse group of candidates look to the American public for a place in the coveted Oval Office.

During this lead time, certain social networks are more influential than others. Twitter is shaping up as the clear winner -- the primary site for campaign outreach.

At 74 years of age, self-declared democratic-socialist Bernie Sanders is the longest serving independent in congressional history.  Running against Hillary Clinton for the serious vote, his campaign gains momentum thanks to 440K Twitter followersFundraising through individual donors -- 250,000 pledged $15 million online and at rallies  -- Sanders draws crowds of nearly 10,000 supporters.
 
A guest for content-sharing website Reddit's "Ask Me Anything", these gameshow-style interviews allow users to ask questions and upvote questions and answers that they find most engaging. Sanders used the segment to candidly address a wide range of issues -- nuclear energy, the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and transgender service in the armed forces. 

From ask me, to scare me, the reality show Fear Factor came to mind when Donald Trump spoke of being mortified by the speed in which the Islamic State has grown. The real estate mogul bemoaned, "Islamic terrorism is eating up large portions of the Middle East. They've become rich. I'm in competition with them. They just built a hotel in Syria. Can you believe this? They built a hotel."

In actual fact, the Islamic State refurbished an old hotel in Iraq, not Syria. Allegedly the rooms are reserved for their commanders, and event space for weddings. Suggesting they were now in competition with his own hotel network, I believe The Donald got trumped.

Undeterred, he continued to bluster, "When I have to build a hotel, I have to pay interest; they don't have to pay interest because they took the oil that when we left Iraq, I said we should have taken. So Now ISIS has the oil. And what they don't have, Iran has."

Transitioning from hotels to barriers, guests to intruders, if he wins the election, Trump has vowed to build a wall along the U.S. southern border. "I will build a great, great wall on our southern border. And I will have Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words."

"Trump is making daily headlines in advance of the primary season," said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston. "This has vaulted him to the top of the pack on the backs of conservative voters."

Believe it or not, Trump's surge in the polls shows no sign of abating.

In the current political arena, although it may be a stretch for the American people to find respect along Catty Court, honesty down Deceptive Drive and reverence busting out of Audacious Avenue, they deserve a smooth ride along The Fair Way.

And of the two candidates on everyone's radar, in all fairness, only one can deliver. Credible, well-respected, globally recognized -- this is her reality show debut!