Way back in 1988, the Writers Guild of America went on strike for 155 days -the longest strike in that organization’s history. The work stoppage screwed up what used to be called “the fall lineup” and forced television networks to rely on a mix of re-runs, specials, sports programming and unscripted original series such as COPS. Whether or not the strike led directly to the creation of the “reality” TV genre is disputed, but with the election to the presidency of Donald Trump, a reality TV star for 11 seasons on “The Apprentice,” there’s no doubt that an outsized personality combined with an extraordinary (or weird) concept and constant exposure on television can be combined to create a powerful political force.
Which explains a remarkable press release from State Senator Michael Williams, R-Forsyth, who’s looking to seek statewide office next year. (Exactly which office is unknown, although there is persistent and deliberate speculation that he may try to skip a few rungs on Georgia’s traditional political ambition ladder and seek the keys to the mansion on West Paces Ferry Road right out of the block.) Williams has won the support of Duane Chapman, a five-time married felony convict who’s most famous as the star of the A&E television series “Dog The Bounty Hunter.” Given Chapman’s tumultuous past, and, err… striking appearance, it’s a type of alliance not to be found among traditional political tactics. But tradition and precedent are so 2014. Welcome to the age of reality politics.
Williams has started an online petition to build support for SB 254, a measure that would tie salaries for Sheriff’s deputies to the minimum starting salary for Georgia’s State Troopers. The legislation appears to be stuck in committee, so Williams and Chapman are attempting to unstick it with a little public pressure with an online petition
“…at BackTheRaise.com to support his legislation (SB 254) to give Georgia law enforcement officers a livable wage. TV personality Duane Chapman, known as “Dog The Bounty Hunter” joined Senator Williams by promoting the petition in a statewide phone call to more than 550,000 Georgians.”
In the transcript of the call, Chapman claims “…there are law enforcement officers on food stamps,” accuses “politicians and bureaucrats of playing games with the bill,” asks Georgians to join him and Williams to:
“Let your elected officials know you support Senator Michael Williams’ law enforcement pay raise by signing the petition at BackTheRaise.com.”
There’s a link to an audio recording of the robocall at the image above, so you can hear for yourself the latest stage in the shift from politics to “reality” politics. Given America’s general cynicism about its second-oldest profession, some might say that modeling political careers after reality TV shows is an improvement -there are political parallels to “Survivor,” “The Amazing Race” or even “The Bachelor.” But when we get to “Politics: Naked and Afraid,” -count me out.