In the wake of Donald Trump effectively securing the Republican presidential nomination on Tuesday, an "op-ed" written in July by the satirical news site, the Onion, is making the rounds on the Internet today. Headlined "Admit It: You People Want to See How Far This Goes, Don’t You?" and ostensibly penned by Trump himself, the piece eerily predicts the voyeuristic appeal that has helped propel the real estate magnate to his lofty perch in the race.
It’s hardly been a month since I entered the field and I’ve already alienated America’s largest immigrant population, seen dozens of my high-profile business deals implode one after the other, and publicly insulted a national hero’s military service, all while not offering a single viable policy idea. But none of that matters at all, and my candidacy continues to surge forward, because none of you — not a single one of you — can look away. Not even for a second.
That was written — by a comedy website — one month after Trump got into the race. Let that marinate for a moment.
What the Onion piece gets right — over and over again — is the idea that it didn't and wouldn't matter to voters what Trump said as much as how, where and when he said it. The public — and, yes, the media — was desperate for something different, someone who would say and do things no one else would even dream of.
"My campaign’s just barely begun and I’ve already got you begging for more," Trump wrote. "Sure, you can say you oppose me or that you don’t even take me seriously. But let me ask you: How many articles have you read about Ted Cruz lately? How many news segments have you watched on Bobby Jindal? Or Rand Paul? But if those stories have the name 'Donald Trump' in them, well, look who suddenly can’t get enough."
What Trump understood from the start — and what the Onion apparently grasped, too — was that this presidential race was all just one big reality show. That solely by being watchable and interesting — and Trump, no matter what else you think, is definitely both of those things — he could wildly overachieve in the primary.
The resurfacing of the Trump Onion piece will also bring back the argument that the media served as Trump's willing accomplice in all of this. But the Onion piece isn't about the media's Trump obsession. It's about who we all are and what we say we want versus what we really do want.
"Don’t delude yourself into thinking it’s everyone else who wants to watch me do this and you’re somehow above it," wrote Trump. "You want to see it. You want more. You hear 'Trump' and your attention snaps to the TV screen right away."
Trump, as imagined by the Onion, is our collective guilty pleasure — even if we don't want to admit it. The message of the piece, which, yes, is meant as satire, is deadly serious: Don't look around to wonder how Trump got this far. Look in the mirror.