Officials should be elected based on their credentials, not their charisma and ability to reassure the public with a familiar face.
As the first awards show on a major network after the slew of women stepping up to confront powerful men in media and Hollywood for abusing and harassing them, the Golden Globes had hefty expectations. In many ways, it did not disappoint. Host Seth Meyers was pointed in his monologue; the Time’s Up movement debuted its first show of solidarity; Oprah was there. Critics of the show have the typical complaints of whiteness, of ostentatious wealth, of erasing media made by studios that aren’t as large as, say, Paramount. Most of Twitter seemed to agree that Oprah was the highlight of the Golden Globes, however. I tend to agree. Her speech about inspiring young black girls is exactly what the country’s children needs to see.
The issue, then, comes when it is now expected that Oprah — or indeed any prominent, charismatic figure in Hollywood, liberal or conservative — will run for president in 2020. This is when it becomes incredibly important to remember that we must demand that our elected officials be well versed in policy and diplomacy and above all nuance. Yes, politicians can be staffed by good advisors, but ultimately, there is one person in the House or the Senate or even the Oval Office, and no matter how good of advisors they have, their advisors were not the ones who were elected and are not the ones making the last decision. By electing politicians without policy experience simply because of their personal charisma is incredibly compelling, we open ourselves up to the ever-feared puppet governments of conspiracies past where the people in power are figureheads and their advisors are the ones with power and no enforceable consequences.
This ending is, of course, perhaps the most dramatic of the possible endings. We can say that it ends not only with a puppet government but also a nuclear war for drama purposes. All bad stories end with explosions. The real consequences, though, remain. Presidents especially need to have a thorough and nuanced view of the world and how politics or economics or military action impact that world. They must have the ability to see through other equally valid or nuanced views of the world and consider them. Above all, they must be knowledgeable enough to acknowledge when they are outclassed and to seek advisors.
This seems contradictory to the above apocalypse scenario, but the role of the advisor in either case is actually incredibly different. Rather than providing an official with a preformed opinion, advisors should presents facts based on their expertise to officials who themselves have expertise to discern the right course of action.
In an age where politicians have become largely cookie cutters of each other with only slight differences between the parties, it cannot be surprising that voters yearn for “real people” with personalities that we have seen and sympathized with for years. The overwhelming charm of Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson cannot be denied. Tom Hanks is the man on whom America’s hopes and dreams of good men in Hollywood now ride. Oprah Winfrey is one of the most personable people to ever grace television. It is easy to see why there is a desire for these trusted figures to be the leaders of America, rather than the current politicians who seem to actively work against the will of the people and routinely (and perhaps unfairly) beat qualified candidates that voters get genuinely excited for.
Much has been written on the conundrum of getting qualified, energetic candidates to run for office. Are they too busy doing real work in the jobs that make them qualified? Are they too afraid of public scrutiny? Are they unable to raise adequate money to run a competitive campaign? Probably a combination of all three and other confounding factors that are individual to each candidate. The notion of voting for another career politician may feel actually painful for those who are yearning for a change in the country that felt stagnant for so long and now is actively dissolving into factions and chaos. But the current mess was made by electing an unqualified billionaire. Electing another one — whomever they may be — to fix the problems made by the first is hardly the solution. To right the course of the country, we must first steady the ship, not try to fix the problem of imbalance with more upheaval.
Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing sums up this whole concept beautifully through White House Communications Director Toby Ziegler’s line, “[…] A funny thing happened when the White House got demystified. The impression was left that anybody could do it.” The point of public office, and the Presidency in particular, is that is supposed to be difficult. The best and brightest of the country should be the ones leading it. We owe it to ourselves and to those that come after us to make the best and most informed decisions possible for the country. For most citizens, that means voting for the most informed candidate that aligns with their values. This isn’t a conservative-liberal issue. This is an issue of engaged or uninterested, of educated or not. By remaining stalwart in our preference for informed lawmakers, we show the would-be candidates with expertise that they stand a chance against charismatic politicians.
In the meantime, we must educate ourselves about our representatives in government and those who would wish to be our representatives. Register to vote, read about candidates and their issues and become educated about a certain part of policy yourself. It could develop into a political career.