Though they live in the iconic White House and sit at the large wooden desk positioned just behind the U.S. seal, the individuals in charge of our country are people, just like we are.
They can be serious, they can joke and they can be silly – the president of the United States is more than just a stuffy person in charge. But where is the line drawn for how relatable we expect them to be?
It’s not uncommon for politicians to attempt to appeal to the younger generations in hopes of gaining more votes. Republican candidate Ben Carson recently released a rap radio ad, according to ABC News. The ad called “Freedom” specifically targets young black voters and is scheduled to air for two weeks in select areas such as Miami, Alabama, Houston, Detroit and Mississippi. The ad uses rapper Aspiring Mogul and also includes portions of a speech by Carson.
Doug Watts, Carson’s campaign spokesman, said the rap was done in an effort to reach that specific group on a level they follow and appreciate. He hopes this will encourage them to become involved in the election and vote.
Herein, Carson used popular culture to make a connection that rendered him relatable in the eyes of a target voting group. However, the public may begin to view politicians in a less serious light when popular culture becomes less of an outreach tool and more of a joke.
Take, for instance, the fact that President Barack Obama has appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres Show multiple times. His most recent appearance was a “funny 10-minute interview in 2014,” according to the New York Daily Times. This, coupled with his faux “The Lion King” birth video at the White House correspondents dinner, causes the public to question how much favor he is trying to win from people because they think he’s funny. With his appearance on the “Ellen DeGeneres Show,” Obama seems to be trying to benefit from his popularity. The average person isn’t featured on Ellen – only celebrities and people who go viral are.
When politicians make these public appearances they begin to venture into the territory of being classified as a celebrity. People perceive power differently for celebrities. The relationship between the average citizen and a famous person is based less on respect and more on entertainment value or idolization. People are often more concerned with a celebrities appearance or clothing than their views or opinions. The opposite should be true for politicians. It’s important for them to maintain the certain level of respect associated with their position.
Politicians are more than their perspectives on the issues. They have the right to joke around. We want them to be relatable, as opposed to always being presented as a firm image. The joking and the relatable aspects need to be balanced. If these politicians are so busy making television appearances, it sometimes makes us wonder what they’re doing with their time.
As people in power, they’re going to be in the spotlight regardless. It’s hard to avoid it, especially with the explosion of social media. But the difference between being a public figure and a celebrity comes with how much effort they are willing to put themselves out there. They’re already in the public eye and don’t need to put themselves out there in purposeful ways to gain popularity. We shouldn’t be treating the president of our country in the same sphere as celebrities like Kim Kardashian.
Although these jokes and public appearances can be attributed to them attempting to appeal to a certain population of people, there’s a fine line between being a public figure and a celebrity. Being in the spotlight as a politician isn’t the same as being a celebrity talked about on E! News. Can a candidate’s attempt to be funny accidentally cross into the reason why we vote for them?
Politicians shouldn’t be viewed as people who look down on others, but the public needs to look up to them in some regard.
We want to be able to relate to the people running our country, and we respect their right to be people and have a good time. But with their position comes an expectation of respect that can’t be lost. There’s a time and a place to joke around, and politicians need to find that balance so they don’t fall into the sphere of being classified as a celebrity.
We should be hearing about our politicians on CNN, not on Entertainment Tonight.