The first night of the Democratic debate this week happened to fall on the same night as the season finale of the Bachelorette. Apparently 7.4 million people tuned in to find out Hannah was no longer with Jed (the show’s winner) as it turned out he was already dating a woman when he went on the show to supposedly find his future wife. Folks focused in on how this might have meant people who’d otherwise be watching the debate were actually glued to another sort of reality TV.
Before dismissing how the Bachelorette and a political debate could attract the same audiences (especially so early in the campaign), you might want to consider some of the similarities between the two. Perhaps the thing that jumps out at me the most is how these early debates feature so many candidates that it reminds me of the early episodes for every season of the Bachelor/Bachelorette.
In Bachelor Nation, the potential suitors are always trying to get more time with the person they’re trying to pursue. We often see folks crashing “dates” other people are having or trying to come up with some cute pickup lines to gain the Bachelorette’s attention. This isn’t too different than how we see candidates cutting into the debate for their 30 second rebuttal with one line zingers they hope will garner some media attention. While this might not be the best way to truly get to know either group, it’s what will earn people attention and allow them to advance further in their respective competitions.
It’s also obvious people in charge of marketing for both the Bachelorette and the debates knew they can’t tell everyone’s story this early in the game. The decision was therefore made to focus in on just a few people. The quest for Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren to win over the party’s liberal wing and the tough exchanges between Kamala Harris and Joe Biden over race relations, for instance, garnered a lot of attention before the second debate just like some of the feuds between individual Bachelorette contestants were featured in early commercials.
Of course, anyone who watched this last season of the Bachelorette probably also remembers how “Luke P” was cast as the early frontrunner who all the other guys couldn’t stand. All of the marketing leading up to early episodes highlighted how quickly Luke and Hannah seemed to gel, which clearly irked some of the other contestants. In other words, he was Bachelor Nation’s Joe Biden. The former vice president was declared the frontrunner before he even decided to get in the race, after all, which perturbed some of the candidates who declared their candidacy relatively early.
Of course, what can’t be ignored is how whoever receives the Democratic nomination will be running against a reality TV star this November. Donald Trump’s time on The Apprentice is why a lot of people were even familiar with him before he decided to run for president. In Bachelor Nation, one of the contestants from the previous season ends up being the star of the next one. In terms of the election, whoever wins the Democratic nomination will hope to say “you’re fired” to Donald Trump.