The Era of Celebrity Presidents?

By now, we all know who the current president of the United States is. Donald Trump. We knew him long before anyone seriously considered him a viable option for president of the United States. He’s been in the spotlight for decades leading up to his presidential run in 2015 and 2016.

Donald Trump hair memeTrump’s career and personal life have been followed closely by millions for years as the shadow of his hairstyle grew larger and larger.

Fast forward to the 2018 Golden Globe Awards on Jan. 7. Oprah Winfrey‘s speech has many speculating whether she will run for president in 2020. Twitter has been abuzz with #Oprah2020. She has a chance. After all, she’s neck and neck with Trump in the number of Twitter followers, although he’s slightly ahead. As of the date of this post, Oprah has 41.3 million followers, compared to Trump’s 46.5 million.

Whether Oprah will run is still up for debate, but a Rasmussen poll released Wednesday shows that in a hypothetical match up between the two, the former talk show host and media mogul held a 10-point lead over Trump.

Is America’s fascination with the idea of celebrities in the White House new? After all, former movie actor Ronald Reagan was elected twice in a landslide to serve as president. But, he did have much more political experience than Trump, having been elected to two terms as governor of California during the 1960s and 1970s.

Although Barack Obama wasn’t a big screen celebrity, his 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention sparked a media fascination that enabled him to run for—and win—the presidency in 2008, despite his lack of political experience.

[Related: Could this be the Most Entertaining Presidential Race Ever?]

The Future of Celebrity Politics

With Trump’s somewhat unexpected success with voters, even Kanye West has announced an interest to run for president in 2020, and later tweeted that it may be 2024 instead. And Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has said pretty much the same.

Will Americans continue to consider, and even vote for celebrities to occupy the White House? I think so. As social media continues to usurp the power and reach of traditional media, American society is likely to continue to focus more on the star factor than a potential candidate’s experience, positions on the issues, etc. It’s fair to say, though, that Trump’s name recognition isn’t the only reason he was elected. His plain talk and stances on certain issues obviously contributed to his success at the ballot box.

Before Sept. 11, 2001, Americans were largely preoccupied with celebrity news and gossip, tending to ignore more important issues. Then the worst day in America’s recent history happened with coordinated terrorist attacks in New York City, Arlington, Va., and in the air.

For several months—if not a few years—after these attacks, America’s focus shifted to national security concerns and whether the country’s involvement in Iraq was good or bad. Other than a national or international event, such as 9/11, Americans will likely continue to focus increasingly on entertainment news and social media feeds for their primary sources of information. Let’s pray that our presidents—current and future, celebrity or not—will have the ability to effectively deal with such events should they come our way.

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