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  • Writer's pictureBohan Gao

Entertainment in the Executive Office



By: Bohan Gao Edited By: Ashlyn Bi November 20, 2023

 

What if Taylor Swift ran for public office? In an era where popular culture and politics have become increasingly intertwined, the idea of celebrities running for political office has gained immense attention. The allure of fame has transcended the realm of entertainment and found a new stage on the political landscape as celebrities increasingly venture into the political arena. Yet the complex intersection of celebrity and politics has an increasingly bright future; it creates the potential to catalyze change, increase civic engagement, and bring fresh perspectives.

Chiefly, celebrities from the entertainment industry running for executive office increase democratic participation. A longstanding issue in the American democratic infrastructure has been voter turnout. When Americans cannot see their social values and ideals represented in potential office positions, they oppose voting. For many people, celebrities running for these positions solve that issue. In April 2021, FiveThirtyEight found that Hollywood candidates are likely to benefit from intangible traits that “have been proven to help sway voters, such as charisma.” More specifically, according to politics reporter Alex Samuels, the consumer research platform Piplsay found earlier this week that 58% of respondents said they would like to see one or both of the actors Matthew McConaughey and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson run for US presidency due to sheer likeability, displaying how celebrities have unprecedented influence on their audiences.

The unique impact of civic engagement is decreased polarization. Journalist Stephen Reicher wrote, “Wannabe politicians can appeal to the average man if they convey they’re ordinary Americans as opposed to seasoned legislators.” Many American citizens perceive leaders who are either heavily Democratic or Republican as frightening, and this conformity discourages them from choosing in elections. Advocating for celebrities as political candidates boost voter turnout and mitigates polarization.

Additionally, allowing celebrities to run for office provides better options. Career politicians are not inherently good. On October 15, 2015, We’re History explained that among our 226 years of chief executives, some of our worst have been career politicians. For instance, James Buchanan spent his entire adult life in public service, yet his administration was staggeringly corrupt. Career politicians are not inherently good politicians. Allowing celebrities to run for office introduces new people to the election pool, decreasing the power of these career politicians.

US News explained on October 24th, 2017, that 52% of elected officials run unopposed—which becomes problematic when we realize that 87% of these are white males and may not represent the different ideals in the United States. Furthermore, many of the most qualified historians and activists count as celebrities. Individuals with a deep understanding of our nation's needs, ranging from scientists like Neil DeGrasse Tyson to activists like Greta Thunberg, often come from outside the realm of career politicians. The truth is that career politicians experience more difficulty in obtaining the knowledge and grasping the public consciousness possessed by those who would be classified as so-called “celebrities.” Law professor John Hewson explained in 2017: “Those [career politicians] that make it are mostly qualified just to play the ‘game’, but not to govern.” Additionally, Hewson asserts that due to their disconnection from the citizens they govern, career politicians often lack the essential knowledge and experience required to function as executives. Outsider celebrity candidates directly fix these issues.

Ultimately, celebrities running for political office pose clear benefits for American democracy. While this phenomenon is not without its challenges, it offers several benefits. Political leadership demands more than one’s ability to play the “game of politics,” and the effectiveness of a politician ultimately depends on their commitment, knowledge, and ability to navigate the complexities of governance—celebrity or not. As the fusion of entertainment and politics progresses, it is vital to thoroughly assess the influence of entertainment industry celebrities as they venture into American politics.


 

Works Cited


Hewson, John. “John Hewson: First Rule of Politics Is to Show You Can Govern Yourselves.” The Sydney Morning Herald, 29 June 2017,

Kurtz, Judy. “Poll: Majority want to see McConaughey, Dwayne Johnson run for office.” The Hill, 6 Apr. 2021,

Landis, Michael. “The Problem With Experience: Do Career Politicians Make Good Presidents?” We’re History, 23 Oct. 2015, werehistory.org/politician-presidents

Milligan, Susan. “Spoiler Alert: How Independents Could Shake up 2024 Elections.” US News & World Report, 11 Oct. 2023,

Reicher, Stephen. “Transparency Is Key in a Crisis - so Why Isn’t the British Government Being Straight With Us?” The Guardian, 1 July 2020, www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/may/13/british-people-lockdown-coronavirus-crisis

Samuels, Alex. “Why Americans Can’t Resist a Celebrity Political Candidate.” FiveThirtyEight, 9 Apr. 2021,


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