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Trump turns GOP race into reality-TV circus

It's official. The three-ring GOP circus of a Tea Party has a new star: Donald Trump. When the real-estate mogul and television personality announced his plan to "make our country great again" and enter the 2016 presidential campaign, all of those conservative candidates performing simultaneously for the audience's attention got sidelined. Donald did what he does best, creating must-see reality television.

So, how did politics, and our national welfare, collide with the world of entertainment to become this chaotic side show?


Donald Trump
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Donald Trump

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Trump is better known to millennials as the producer and star of "The Apprentice" than as a real-estate titan. His constant need for attention fuels his current political ambitions. Americans can't help but watch.

Now he's forcing a field of more than 20 potential or declared Republican presidential candidates to compete with a seasoned reality star who knows how to turn on for the cameras.

The noise starts with his derogatory statements about Mexicans: "They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists, and some, I assume, are good people."

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And, it continues with bizarre braggadocio: "I'm really rich…I have a total net worth of $8 billion…I just sold an apartment for $15 million to somebody from China."

How do the other candidates keep the focus on their own platforms when they are stopped by their campaign trail press pools and asked to comment on such nonsense?

The more shrill and outlandish the statement, the bigger the headlines and greater the air time, sinking the level of debate to even greater depths. These GOP pols are aware that if they do not engage in a pound-for-pound exchange with their latest rival, they will probably receive limited camera time.

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Without camera time, their story lines lose relevance, and, well, the light eventually turns off. Every unscripted television producer knows shock value is the formula to keep audiences coming back for more. And with 14 wildly successful seasons as a television personality, Mr. Trump knows this all too well.

But, reality hit a bubble a few years ago, when America realized the stakes had been upped to keep audiences engaged. We hit reality rock bottom with arrests, fights, divorce, sex tapes, fraud, mental breakdowns, suicide, and money laundering.

Sure, reality television will always have an audience, just as there will always be rubberneckers who can't turn away from a bad traffic accident. But it's no longer primetime. The voter's appetite is changing.

And there are consequences to bringing reality-show hysteria into the presidential race. It affects the lives of Americans. Not only will it distract them from seeing the reality of their own lives, these inane one-liners will shape policy that affects our children's education and our search for decent paying jobs. Another consequence of these antics will be the disengagement of a new generation of voters who chose to stay home rather than go to the ballot on election day. Unfortunately, many voters won't realize the consequences of their actions until the right hand has been placed on the Bible for the oath of office and the show comes to an end.

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Republicans should take the advice of their former First Lady, Nancy Reagan, and just say no to Donald Trump so that they may return to a more reasoned debate that focuses on the issues. What makes American democracy unique is our checks and balances. A two-party system put in place by the people, with the understanding that, through great debate, solutions to problems like growing jobs, fixing the education system, and expanding equality will be decided. But Trump, a beneficiary of this system, doesn't get it. I can only hope that his total lack of substance eventually knocks him out of the spotlight, and the more serious candidates find their way back into primetime, because the American people deserve better.

Commentary by Mike Muse, co-founder of Muse Recordings. Muse has served on President Barack Obama's National Finance Committee as well as finance committees of Sens. Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand and Mayor Bill de Blasio. He is currently serving on the Democratic National Finance Committee and Hillary Clinton's Finance Committee. He was recently named a United States Small Business Administration's My Brother's Keeper, Millennial Entrepreneurial Champion and was appointed by New York City Mayor, Bill de Blasio, to serve on the Board of Advisors for the Mayors Fund to Advance New York City. Follow him on Twitter @IamMikeMuse.