In our current polarizing political climate, more celebrities are running for political office. They should not.
Katherine Mayo / Daily Collegian
In the 2016 presidential election, longtime celebrity, entertainer, and reality TV show star Donald Trump won the presidency against Hillary Clinton, an established politician and member of a famous political family who served as senator and secretary of state. It was a shocking result; Almost all major polls predicted Clinton a comfortable victory, some even a landslide victory. But on election night, Trump continued to win states Clinton was supposed to win, and the tide slowly but surely turned on Trump’s side.
Trump’s victory fundamentally changed the political landsc -e in the United States. Yes, before Trump there were other celebrities who successfully ran for office, including former actors Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The latter became governor of California and Reagan became the 40th president. These two men were outliers in the decades they ran for office as celebrities rarely ran for office and were seen as novelties. Yet her ability to connect with the electorate made her relatable to the people. Furthermore, the concept of a “celebrity” – particularly in the case of Reagan – was not fully established. Today celebrities are much more famous across the country than celebrities were in previous decades due to the social media integration and ease of communication.
In the five years since Trump won the election, a large number of celebrities have considered or announced candidacies. Caitlyn Jenner ran a failed campaign for governor of California during the recent recall election against Gavin Newsom. Matthew McConaughey pondered running for governor of Texas for years and recently bowed out of consideration. Oprah Winfrey had widespread public support for the presidential run and was actively considering running for 2020. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is also slated to run for president and said he would do so if the public support was there. Kanye West founded his own political party and ran for president in 2020 with around 60,000 votes and is considering running again in 2024. Cynthia Nixon, former star of “Sex and the City”, failed in the area code for the New York governor. Herschel Walker, former University of Georgia Heisman winner and football player, is currently running for the Georgia Senate, and Dr. Oz, the television doctor and proponent of alternative medicine and conspiracies, is running for the Pennsylvania Senate.
It is clear that celebrities’ eagerness to run for office is not waning. People want other options than the classic career politician, which is not a new concept. But the idea that over-famous celebrities use their fame to run for office is dangerous. The current political climate is fertile ground for this, because people not only support a candidate because of his suggestions and ideas, but also support a candidate because they strongly reject the opposition. This concept, known as “negative partisanship,” makes it easier for celebrities to run for election as the common voter doesn’t care who the candidate for their party is. Instead, they will simply vote against the party they dislike. Every celebrity, like Dr. Oz, can vote, run for office, and get votes simply because he is not part of the opposing party.
This is a worrying concept because candidates with little to no knowledge of government can be elected to very important positions in state and federal elections. It would be easy for them to allow themselves to be corrupted by party officials and to conform to the wishes of the party without really considering the electorate. At the same time, it is understandable that the public is fed up with the candidacy of professional politicians and wants newer candidates. There needs to be a new influx of political candidates running for office, a group that is younger with some government background but is not a political insider. The answer to professional politicians shouldn’t be celebrities, as this will only further undermine our electoral system.
Lukas Halpern can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @lukehalpern.