Opinion: A reality show starring Trump and Biden could be exactly what US voters need | CNN (2024)

Opinion: A reality show starring Trump and Biden could be exactly what US voters need | CNN (1)

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How a far-right takeover in Europe may impact US politics

02:56 - Source: CNN

Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program, “The Dean Obeidallah Show.” Follow him on Threads. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. Read more opinion at CNN.


Hugely popular US television shows like “Shark Tank,” “Survivor” and even “American Idol” are based on hit programs from foreign countries. I’ve now found the next hit reality show that America could import — and it would be perfect in the run-up to the 2024 presidential election.

Opinion: A reality show starring Trump and Biden could be exactly what US voters need | CNN (2)

Dean Obeidallah

The show is a four-part series called “The Conclave” and, as the New York Times wrote, it has “transfixed” the people of Belgium, where it’s a runaway hit. The series is billed as a political version of “The Bachelor,” but it actually seems more akin to MTV’s “The Real World.

The way the TV program works is that leaders of Belgium’s seven major political parties, spanning the spectrum from the far right to the far left — including the sitting prime minister — agreed to live together for a weekend in a castle. The politicians were seen in the four-episode show cooking, walking together in the woods and of course debating political issues. There was even a confessional where the political leaders shared their inner political thoughts with the viewers. The show aired ahead of the start of balloting in Belgium’s national elections on Sunday, which coincided with elections to the European Union Parliament.

As the Dutch-language website for “The Conclave” explains, the premise behind the show was to “give the voter an insight into (the candidates’) beliefs and agenda.” And it did just that, such as when Tom Van Grieken, head of the far-right, secessionist Vlaams Belang party, joked when asked if he had started a campfire, “Yes, with these ‘woke’ books that I want to ban.” As we all know, many a truth is said in jest.

Vlaams Belang, a rising political force in Belgium whose name means “Flemish Interest,” is known for its anti-immigrant positions and for what one opposition political figure in the shared house condemned as views that don’t “respect democracy.” The largest party in Belgium, it is expected to increase its dominance after Sunday’s vote. In fact, far-right parties did well in balloting held across Europe on Sunday, an ominous sign for left and centrist politics across the continent.

Amid disagreements and reconciliation, there were real moments of substantive politics during “The Conclave.” One example came when Bart De Wever, the leader of a conservative Flemish nationalist party, declared he would not partner with Van Grieken’s party even if it meant they would have the seats needed to govern, explaining, “I can’t partner with someone who doesn’t respect democracy. Sorry, that’s quite fundamental.”

That exchange seems important given that Van Grieken’s party had been polling well and if De Wever’s party were to join in coalition with him, it would further Van Grieken’s separatist agenda: He hopes to create a new country apart from the more ethnically diverse, French-speaking, left-leaning southern region of Belgium known as Wallonia.

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After Sunday’s balloting, Vlaams Belang is projected to become Belgium’s biggest party with around 26% of Flemish votes. It’s impossible to know to what degree Belgians’ feelings about what they saw on “The Conclave” played a role in that result. But the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that a US version of “The Conclave” could help voters in the US make up their minds ahead of November’s White House race.

For starters, a recent NBC News poll found that interest in this year’s presidential election is the lowest in 20 years when compared with the same point in past presidential election cycles. What better way to shake things up — and spark public interest — than having Biden and Trump spend a weekend together with TV cameras capturing almost every move?

The on-air time could help both candidates — although to be blunt, I think it would benefit Biden more, despite Trump’s experience in the reality show genre as host of “The Apprentice.” For Biden, it would be a great chance to finally put to rest questions about whether he is too old to serve another term as president, an issue that has dogged him throughout the campaign.

In one episode, Biden could go on his customary bike ride but rather than biking solo, he could challenge Trump to ride alongside him. The incumbent president could use the outing to show up his Republican challenger on the often-raised question of his physical fitness.

And during their time living under one roof, he could quiet critics of his mental fitness as well: Biden and Trump would have an opportunity for an untold number of impromptu debates on substantive issues — all caught on camera. My money would be on the incumbent President emerging the hands-down winner in those face-offs.

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If Biden and Trump were to agree to spend a weekend together in a setting like “The Conclave” where we can watch them interact, cook meals together and of course talk politics, Americans would tune in — and likely in record numbers. It would be up to the candidates to make their best case to voters.

But would they agree to it? My guess is that Trump would, given, as everyone knows, how much he loves to be on television. He might even find a way to use the show to peddle some of his Trump merchandise from his line of sneakers to his Trump-inspired “Victory 47” cologne and his Trump Bibles.

One possible hitch, however, has to do with scheduling — and it might prevent Trump from participating. The presumptive GOP presidential nominee is to be sentenced on July 11 in the “hush money” case tried last month that saw him convicted of 34 felony counts by a New York jury. That means there’s a possibility that Trump could be sentenced to prison or home confinement for an extended period of time.

If that were to happen, the show would be a no-go — unless Biden were to agree to spend the weekend filming in Mar-A-Lago, if Trump should get sentenced to house arrest. If the former president were to get hard time, Biden would have to be game to spend a weekend in Trump’s prison block.

Talk about “must-see TV.”

Opinion: A reality show starring Trump and Biden could be exactly what US voters need | CNN (2024)


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