The Rise of Trumpism: From “The Apprentice” to Politics

When Donald Trump first started as a public figure, he was seen as the disgraced son of a real estate mogul. Having left the New York Military Academy without finishing his education, many saw him as a child that people had no control over. He continually went to casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and would disgrace the name that his father, Fred Trump, had worked so carefully to build. Before the image of Donald Trump as a Titan of Industry first appeared, no banks would lend him loans, and no sane man would trust him to pay his dues. Yet, when Donald Trump and television producer Mark Burnett created the widely watched television show, “The Apprentice”, the image the public had held of Trump changed almost overnight. 

“The Apprentice” showed Donald Trump as a business tycoon- the man who shaped modern businesses. The reality of the television show was nothing more than the creation of a man that would become the most dangerous threat to the needs of the American public. The show presented Donald Trump as a man just like the ordinary American, a man who wanted to succeed and was able to do so through hard work and determination. The essence of the show, which is only available to watch if bought, shows a man that takes no-nonsense and wants to help others to realize their American dream of success. Seeming to not care about the opinions of others, as Trump gained more fame, he would be vulgar and demeaning to others, apparently stating the truths that others did not want to hear.  This method of interaction only helped to boost his popularity in years to come, as it was this method of speech that caused so many Americans to like him.

The potential of pure capitalism is what Trump conveys throughout the running of “The Apprentice”, something that terrified millions and yet drew others towards him. Throughout his time running for and in the position of President of the United States, Trump gave people a show. Crude and intent on always winning, he fed people the lies seen on reality television. By skewing his followers’ media coverage, Trump’s rampant dismissal of genuine fears about climate change, healthcare, and racism, allowed for him to feed into the alt-right’s desires for a law and order-based country.  Having a so-called working man like himself run the country, the fading success story of America’s self-made men could have been seen as appealing to voters.

Unfortunately, Trump’s success with reality television carried him into the political sphere that he was unfamiliar with. Using debates and television views, he discredited science and severed ties with many political allies that are necessary to foster success. His ‘America First’ policy gave way to the nationalistic ideals of people that believe they are the greatest, and that those not like them are not fit to call themselves ‘Americans’. As Trump’s rise in popularity with extreme in-state terrorists grew, his dramatic and dismissive press conferences continued to become more common.

His continual villainizing of other politicians, races, and religions gave an insight into just how far he would go to keep his attempted authoritarian presidency. A large growth of distrust with the former president started when he took Russia’s President Putin’s words over his own advisors. As he continued to downplay the security and safety concerns of the nation, many former supporters of Trump and more left-wing voters felt that Trump was ultimately not a trustworthy President. Yet, the voters that felt Trump was protecting American interests became even more devoted and jaded to the policies being put in place. This culminated in an attempted coup on the American Capitol on January 6th, 2021, where he convinced his followers that the election was rigged. The election in the United States, even with all its faults, is extremely difficult to tamper with, as there are many security checks in place that ensure electoral accountability.

The rise of Trumpism can be seen as a direct response to what he learned from his time on reality television. His fans and devoted voters are still convinced that Trump will take over office sometime soon. The theories started with them believing he would have returned on March 4th of this year. Since that has not happened, supporters are now hopeful for his come-back during the month of August. The former President of the United States has held rallies for his devoted voters, reassuring that he will return to office and reinstate a right-wing, Republican government that would be sure to limit voting rights and personal autonomy. By editing the reality his followers continue to see, he gives way to the belief that he can save the United States from liberals, democrats, and the current President Bident and Vice President Harris, creating a world of nationalism and ‘Trumpism’, which will have detrimental, destructive effects for years to come.

Madeleine Smith

Madeleine Smith is a junior history major at the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C., United States.  

Works Cited:

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Leatherby, Lauren, et al. “How a Presidential Rally Turned Into a Capitol Rampage.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 12 Jan. 2021,

Lerner, Mitchell. “Perspective | The Key Factor in the Rise of Trumpism That We Continue to Ignore.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 3 Jan. 2019,

Nussbaum, Emily, and Nancy Franklin. “The TV That Created Donald Trump.” The New Yorker, 24 July 2017,

Peoples, Steve. “Trump: The Key to Republican Success Is More Trumpism.” AP NEWS, Associated Press, 11 Apr. 2021,

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“These Trump Supporters Are Convinced He Will Be President Again on March 4 – CNN Video.” CNN, Cable News Network, 27 Feb. 2021,

Madeleine Smith is a junior history major at the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C., United States.

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