From Ronald Reagan to Clint Eastwood and Arnold Schwarzenegger. From fallen comedian Al Franken to singer Sonny Bono and from presenter Jerry Springer to businessman and TV star Donald Trump. The United States has a rich history of celebrities aspiring to new careers in politics. One with more success than the other. George Takei, the famous Mr. Sulu from the television series Star Trek, for example, has been more successful as an actor in the universe than as a politician in California.
But the list of stars may well grow in the near future. Because in California, the former Olympic champion and transsexual, Caitlyn Jenner, is rocked as candidate for the post of governor. In Texas, Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey is also lobbying for the post. And in New York City, Andrew Yang, a businessman who rose to fame through his 2020 presidential bid, is one of the top contenders for the Democratic mayoral nomination.
None of these American celebrities lack notoriety. They can certainly play a large audience, but their inexperience in public office can play tricks on them. Donald Trump turned out to be an unprecedented social media phenomenon and no one was more controversial than him. But there is some doubt, to say the least, if the Donald was such a strong president in terms of content.
Nor is it easy for a TV star to play in rather boring politics as well, believes Daniel Ketchell, who was chief of staff to Schwarzenegger, the Austrian bodybuilder turned Hollywood star. Schwarzenegger also became governor of California in 2003, for two terms. “I think people now look at celebrities and think, we just elected a famous president and we were all stressed out all the time,” Ketchell told the AP News Agency.
Jenner, a decathlon gold medalist who is perhaps most famous as a member of the famous Kardashians, began her campaign last week to challenge Democrat Gavin Newsom. Supported by her 3.5 million Twitter followers and nearly 11 million Instagram fans, Jenner’s entourage sees great opportunities for her. Arnold Schwarzenegger is an example of a celebrity who has gone far in politics. But he had management experience because before becoming governor, the actor was among other things active as Chairman of President George HW Bush’s Fitness and Sports Council. Schwarzenegger was also married to Maria Shriver, a member of the Kennedy dynasty.
Ronald Reagan, often mocked at the start of his career, was also more experienced than is often thought. He was chairman of the Screen Actors Guild, a powerful union of film and television actors, and learned to bargain hard there. Jesse Ventura, the professional wrestler who became governor of Minnesota, was not a born politician, but he was quite the figure: he surrounded himself with very experienced assistants.
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