We are going to start this post off with a disclaimer: We love Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith, Dwayne “Do we still call him the Rock?” Johnson, and all other celebrities. You are great people, great entertainers, and -by all accounts- kind and amazing human beings… or also Mark Zuckerberg. So, please know that we say this with the utmost respect and love: DO NOT RUN FOR PRESIDENT. Please, please do not run for President. If name recognition was all it took to be a good leader, than right now you would think America should be living in a utopia. Yet, we are currently suffering under a populist ego-maniacal reality star with delusions of… well, everything, because -surprise, surprise- being rich and popular are not exactly the best qualifiers for being leader of a country.
A Golden Globe Age
You have to hand it to America, there is one thing we still do better than the rest of the world, and that is fawn over celebrities. America is practically a celebrity factory. Are you a marginally good singer? Actor? Are you rich? Are you the son/daughter of someone who is rich? Have you made a sex tape? Well, congratulations you might just become America’s next big “thing.” And, that is great. Enjoy your time in the spotlight and having your face plastered on magazines and paparazzi following your every move. We do not deny you your right to be popular and beloved, but what we do care about is when you think it is time to use that fame to transition to power.
Oprah Winfrey, is the most recent name to be floated and dissected as a possible Presidential candidate, but giving out cars to your audience members on your talk show does not make you qualified to work with Congress or negotiate with NATO. We like to think of celebrities as viable candidates because we know them, and in some instances we trust them. We have watched them on the big and small screens. They feel like people we care about, or people who could be our friends, or just people we want to harass over Twitter. Sometimes they even seem to be responsible and in control, but we have to understand that is what we are supposed to think. There are teams around celebrities to make them appear as who they are. Oprah hosted a heck of a show, -that also questionable medical advice- but it was completely designed to make it look like she was the person we think she is. How does that qualify her to make decisions that affect the entire world? Will Smith is often portrayed as a responsible, intelligent, hero who really doesn’t have time for you nonsense. Those sound like great attributes for a President, but stop and think. Would you be electing Will Smith the person, or the person he plays in movies?
Replacing one amateur President with another -even if this time they are on your side of the political spectrum- gets us less than nothing. What will become of America if we start electing Presidents the same way we used to elect the class president in high school? Popularity does not lend itself to leadership, and neither we nor the world need another President whose best attribute is name recognition. Our political capital on the international stage is already taking a beating, and if continue to elect a string of celebrities as our leaders, than what does that say about us as a society? Have we become so lost in our own pop culture that we can no longer distinguish fame from power, or celebrities from politicians? Is America doomed to be led by one famous person after another?
The Post Trump America
A constant revolving door of celebrities in the Oval Office may sound like a far fetched notion, but we have already committed the first sin. We have elected a reality TV star to the Presidency, instead of a career woman politician. In many way, we broke the wrong glass ceiling. Now, in the world of Trump, we have begun to see every inspirational speech, not so much as a call to action, but a call to the voting booth. By all accounts Oprah gave a moving speech addressing a real problem in Hollywood and America, -the widespread sexual misconduct toward women- but that was not what we took away from it. Instead of remaining focused on her message, we zeroed in on her possible political ambitions, but maybe in a world where the guy from The Apprentice and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York City, now sits in the White House, how could we think otherwise?
The line between celebrities and presidents is growing blurrier and that is worrisome. Essentially, we are making the President not just a celebrity, but a source of entertainment. We are taking the highest office in the land and turning it into a four year long television show. Oprah can recommended what books we should read from behind the Resolute Desk. She could give away tax breaks as she once gave away prizes on her show. We would feel warm and happy, as if our favorite neighbor had everything in control, but then what next? Maybe an action star for times of war? Maybe a comedian to help us laugh through our troubles? Why not? After all, Trump is running the country like the most riveting reality show out there.
We cannot allow the highest office in the land to become nothing more than fodder for every Tom, Dick, and Harry Connick Jr. out there who are starting to think that the next step after winning an Oscar is winning the Democratic nomination. We cried during Bill Pullman’s speech in Independence Day, but we would cry during President Bill Pullman’s inauguration speech, for completely different reasons. Playing the President in a movie where aliens invade Earth does not qualify a person to be the President, even if aliens were to actually invade Earth.
Reagan Did It
Now, you might say, “Look at Ronald Reagan,” and we will respond, “Yes, but…” Ronald Reagan was active in politics since the 1960’s. He led the Screen Actors Guild through labor disputes and the McCarthy hearings. He was elected Governor of California in 1967. He lost his Presidential bid in 1976, before being elected in 1980. Reagan was an actor, but he had governmental experience. He ran the state of California for eight years, and had serious political ambitions and thoughts. He will be long remembered as a President before being thought of as a “celebrity.” Now, we are not saying that there is not another Reagan hiding out there, -Governor Schwarzenegger is a good example- but for a celebrity to jump right to the Presidency without former civil or military service is unheard of… or at least it used to be.
In a way we have to blame John F. Kennedy. He was the first President to really have a celebrity look. He hung out with celebrities, -and let things hang out while he was around certain celebrities, if you know what we mean- and he was the first President to win a televised debate almost on handsomeness alone. After, that it was a slow fall toward image and popularity becoming more important than substance and issues. Presidential elections became more of a spectacle with each passing year, and in a way that has culminated in our current climate. We are responsible for creating an atmosphere where celebrities can become Presidents, and we are paying the price.
We have no doubt that a Trump/Oprah debate will get the higher ratings than America’s Got Talent, but is that what we really want, more spectacle? No serious Democrat will run against Oprah. The media attention she will get alone will snuff out their chances. Admittedly, we could be wrong and she might make a great President, but the damage will already be done. Celebrity and power will be forever affixed in the minds of Americans, and a singer’s next big music video could very easily double as their campaign announcement, or suddenly all the celebrities in Hollywood will be clamoring to play movie Presidents, if only to appear more Presidential.
Oh well, at least in 2032 we will finally get to vote for the Swift, Efron ticket.