Should we look to the A-list for presidential candidates?

By Elizabeth Mohr

Following Oprah Winfrey’s acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement at the 2018 Golden Globes, a new movement was founded: Oprah for President 2020.

Oprah is not the first celebrity to be hailed as a possible candidate for future elections: Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson has also had his name dropped in media reports in past months. Though the seriousness of these suggestions remains debatable, the excitement surrounding nominating a celebrity as a future presidential candidate hints at a rather worrisome problem at the root.

This change in the attitude towards career politicians has, in the case of the United States, already resulted in the election of a businessman and TV celebrity, Donald Trump. But what is the reason for this shift towards inexperienced candidates?

There needs to be a new attitude that plays down the two parties’ hostility

One would think that Trump’s lack of a political resumé would have deemed him unfit for the job; however, it seems that it was exactly this lack of experience that made him attractive to the electorate.

Any trust and assurance voters should feel when electing a qualified candidate for president seems to have been undermined by a distrust of the current government and its politicians. According to Gallup polls of U.S. adults, trust in government institutions has seen a strong decline in the past 40 years, with only 36% of adults claiming to have confidence in the presidency in 2016.

This distrust in the government seems to have resulted in a shift away from the career politicians that have dominated the presidential races up until now. Voters are looking for change and it seems to have been decided that it won’t be found among those already immersed in the system. Trump’s 2016 election opponent, Hillary Clinton, provides a prime example of this.

After Trump’s election, people were quick to take sides

Though she is extremely experienced in the field, it seems that Hillary Clinton’s long-term presence in politics and ties to former president, Bill Clinton, was one of the main reasons that she was disliked so much by both Republicans and Democrats. In contrast, a man distanced from the inner workings of politics seemed to be the one with the potential to bring promise to a system perceived as broken.

Even now, though the 2020 political race has not yet begun, the fact that voters on both sides are once again looking to candidates devoid of political experience, suggests that there is an agreement amongst the public that the change the political system needs will not necessarily be brought about by politicians.

Regaining the trust that has been lost in career politicians is not going to be an easy feat. In my opinion, the only way to redevelop this trust whilst avoiding another presidential candidate like Trump is a change in the public’s attitude towards each other.

After the election of Trump, people were quick to take sides, dividing into two opposing teams like they were in a sports match. It seems even now, despite the increasing transparency of what is happening within the White House, the idea of the good and bad continues to dominate in American society.

Voters are looking outside politics for change

In the long run, Democrats and Republicans both agree that there needs to be some sort of change – however, looking for change does not mean merely calling out the wrongdoings of the other party.

Instead, there needs to be a development of a new attitude which emphasises less the hostility between the two parties and instead focuses on finding a new wave of promising politicians and emphasising the importance of having well-qualified people in charge to promote the well-being of society.

Photograph: Vic via Flickr (Creative Commons)

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