Let’s review a handful of random celebrity politicians. Historically, I have always been in the camp that wanted pure outsiders. I wanted people who weren’t brought up in the system to the point that the system was all they knew. I was leery of rich candidates, because even though they theoretically wouldn’t be beholden to lobbyists, I wanted some diversity of experience.
Then, in the last couple years I started to waiver from that ideal. I started seeing experience in the system as a necessary evil. Getting in and being unable to accomplish anything because they don’t know how to maneuver the inner-workings of the system, didn’t seem a good idea. One example I used was President Obama. Not a celebrity, per se, but his experience was extremely light prior to his election as President. The last one to two years he has actually been a fairly decent President, but his first six years were absolutely horrible. He had no idea the importance of schmoozing, or building relationships, which is a vastly underrated skill at that level. He had one Senate term, and that has shown to not be enough. Had he had three Senate terms he would have built more relationships with which to work, and he would have been more familiar with the system and how it works. Unfortunately, we had to endure a six year learning curve.
But I digress. Back to celebrities with little-to-no political experience. Maybe this can give us some insight as to whether experience as a politicians really means anything, or not.
Sonny Bono: Don’t let his dupe television personality mislead you, he was a brilliant man and very politically-minded. He did well, as Mayor and in the House. Grade: B+
Clint Eastwood: Mayor only, and ran because he felt city government was essentially thwarting him personally. Yeah, ok, it was kind of personal. However, once he got in to office, he was very serious and conscientious and somewhat “hands-off”. He actually did pretty well. Grade B
Al Franken: To me, the guy is somewhat of a stooge. A tool for others. But, I cannot and do not question his sincerity. He’s been somewhat on the fringes, and I am not convinced that other Senators take him all that seriously, but he certainly hasn’t been an embarrassment to his state. Grade: C-
Fred Grandy: “Gopher” on The Love Boat. Another actor slightly in the Sonny Bono mold, but not as extreme. Was a competent House member and represented his district ably. Grade: C+
Ronald Reagan: Actor, but always politically-minded. He was two-time president of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG, actor’s union) prior to being elected Governor, and eventually President. He had the mindset and enough savvy to pull it off. If anyone could build relationships with the opposition, it was Reagan. My assessment today of Reagan is complicated. I was a huge fan at the time, and still don’t begrudge his spending, as it served a purpose in the Cold War. Where he has lost me since is the legacies of the so-called “drug war” and his advocacy of civil asset forfeiture, both of which have come to be serious threats to our society, and for which I cannot forgive. These two things drop him in my book, but also note that these are disagreements in policy, he was still quite effective in getting things implemented, which is more what this post is about. Grade: A for effectiveness, D for policy
Arnold Schwartzenegger: His predecessor, Gray Davis, was an absolutely horrible governor. His recall was warranted. He ruled too dispassionately and too much according to the day’s latest poll. It was all about keeping up the numbers and only keeping up the numbers. It’s kind of too bad that Arnold ran against him, because that alone sealed Davis’ demise, and I would have rather the recall been about issues over personality, but in the end it worked out ok. Arnold slipped into being just another politician his last few years in office, but for the most part he was a very fine and competent governor. He did some things that were very unpolitical-like because he felt they were the right thing to do., and I liked that. Grade: A-
Jesse Ventura: Professional “wrestler”. Kind of a buffoon. I don’t question his sincerity, but he was too over-the-top, and his lack of prior experience showed. His saving point was that he got more people thinking about their government. Grade: D
So, I go through these recent examples, and I think, “Hey, that’s actually not too bad, overall.” Maybe I should rethink my position and be more open. Which brings us to…
Donald Trump: He’s a celebrity, let’s not kid ourselves. For all the examples I put forth above that showed a celebrity outsider can indeed do well, we now have Mr Trump to consider. I think Mr Trump would be a travesty. Not because he’s an outsider, but because up until now he’s never been politically-minded. He clearly has no idea how the system works. He doesn’t even come off as interested in the political realities that he would face if he were to get in office. For all his chutzpah, he has none of the positive qualities that the people listed above needed to overcome their political handicaps. I’m sorry, but I just do not see him in the same league as these other people. They all, at least and whether you agreed with them individually or not, were sincere and earnest in their duties. Grade: I
A final thought… While many of these people worked out fine, should it concern us that people are willing to elect popularity over substance?