Editorial: Hollywood takes The White House

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To become a doctor in America, a person must attend four years of college, four years of medical school and complete residencies and fellowships that can last anywhere from three to eight years.

That totals to a minimum of 11 years of schooling and training.

Being able to hold a political office has typically been a prestigious feat one had to work for. Having the proper schooling and background and knowing the process of drafting legislature, among many other qualifications, made a person competent enough to hold a position in office.

A person running for office had to go through the seemingly unglamorous aspects of learning political science, law, economics and other related areas of study and with this dedication came preparation and qualification.

But American politics seem to have disregarded this preparation standard since our last presidential election, electing businessman and television personality Donald Trump.

His pre-White House celebrity status has catalyzed a strange desire to have celebrities hold political positions.

In January, there was buzz about Oprah Winfrey running for president. Now, Cynthia Nixon — a former Sex in the City actress, LGBTQ equality activist and public education advocate — has announced her candidacy for governor of New York.

While these women may be considered influential and inspiring, it is impossible to ignore the fact that their activism and knowledge about certain political issues do not make them qualified to serve as an elected official.

A person does not have to be in an official government position to have a large impact on the population. There are ways to serve your country effectively that do not involve getting yourself into a position you are not prepared for.

In short, celebrities who are not prepared to hold a position in office simply shouldn’t.

This goes for any celebrity who does not have the proper political background and relevant experience.

Celebrities running for political office is not a new phenomenon. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ronald Reagan were both movie stars before they were elected governor of California.

But now, it seems like the idea of celebrities running for office has become more popular — almost like it is another role to add to their repertoire.

With much of the general public unsatisfied with the government, new strategies are being considered.

Because celebrities appear relatable through their vast media following and attention, the public finds comfort in the transparency and beauty of celebrities.

Over the years, politics have become an aesthetics game. Studies show the public tends to trust attractive people more than the average Joe.

In September 1960, the U.S. held its first ever televised presidential debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. According to a TIME article, “Nixon, pale and underweight from a recent hospitalization, appeared sickly and sweaty, while Kennedy appeared calm and confident.”

At the time, 88 percent of households in America had television sets, so many citizens were able to watch the debate.

Those who didn’t watch the debate on television and instead listened via radio thought Nixon performed better, while those who watched the debate on their TV sets thought Kennedy — the more attractive candidate — was the obvious winner.

People increasingly value visuals and optics, which is part of the reason celebrities gain support when running for office.

The integration of social media additionally changes the political platform. A celebrity with a vast social media following arguably already has the trust and acceptance of voters.

In the past, part of the battle for politicians was the fight for media coverage. The exposure gained from media platforms led to awareness and ultimately votes.

In the social media age, people are less inclined to do research on their own about important issues, citizens are more likely to accept the simplicity and clarity of celebrity’s missions and slogans.

There is a difference between being a stellar campaigner and a qualified legislator. Celebrities certainly know how to hold a crowd’s attention, making them effective and unbeatable campaigners — but does this campaign charisma lead to effective governance and legislation?

The public should question whether celebrities are truly suited for a position in office.

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2 Comments

  1. Is it not the public’s opinion of who is qualified that is important? If Trump or Oprah want to run for president, let them. And if the public wants them to be president, then great, less Washington ties, less ability to be bought out by lobbies, etc.

    If we were looking at who was most “qualified” to be president, we would have no one but Kennedy, Clinton, or Bush in office – none of which would be desirable.

    People like Trump, Carson, and Fiorina (all who were legitimate candidates and I believe made some outstanding points and legitimate impacts on society) would have been dismissed as not being “qualified.”

    The amount of time you spend in school does not equate to qualification. Your track record equates to qualification.

    Wall Street isn’t going to be comparing a person with a PhD in economics with no experience to a person who completed a BS in Finance but has 5 years of experience and pick the PhD person, just as we should not discredit a candidate that has real experience in the business or advocacy world in order for someone who “knows more” because they spent a longer time in school.

  2. We need to encourage a variety of people with different vocations to enter politics.

    If anything we should not prefer a “professional class” of politician – instead we should prefer those who dedicate only a shorter period like 8 to 10 years to such public service. The professional political class (in hyperbole can become political royalty like Roosevelt, Kennedy, Bush, and Clinton families) has tended to abuse power and milk the system – which takes freedoms, power, and treasure from the people.

    A democratic system (like life) is not a meritocracy and we are not selecting a philosopher king and often we are stuck selecting the less objectionable candidate. Since the US structure is a republic we tend to vote for the person we would most enjoy having a drink with – this has favored the famous many times…such is the flawed but best system we know.

    As a libertarian, in an election, I would prefer most actors and athletes to a member of the professional political class.

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