OPINION: Don’t vote for unqualified celebrities


Abigail Schmidt

Illustration by Abigail Schmidt

Ava Acharya, News Editor

Why do mainstream celebrities run for office? Usually, these campaigns are fueled by a narcissistic need to gain power, instead of a legitimate desire to promote genuine political change. To be fair, it’s not entirely accurate to suggest that traditional politicians do not also run for these same reasons; however, at least traditional politicians gained notoriety from experience.
Celebrities gain popularity through their value as entertainers. But, being entertaining does not equate to any meaningful political knowledge or experience.
Most Americans pay closer attention to their preferred form of entertainment than to their country’s politics, whether that entertainment is music, reality television, or any other form of media. And, that makes sense. Politics can be depressing, especially when you are forced to deal with the consequences of political change everyday. Entertainment offers an outlet, and that is both important and necessary.
The problem comes from the conflation of entertainment and politics, wherein popular conception the two become interchangeable. With the rise of social media, political news and information can be consumed in a sphere intended for entertainment. And, this is not inherently bad, as it encourages people to become more politically involved and knowledgeable. However, it also places people with absolutely no political experience in a position to be as influential as those who have dedicated their lives to this area.
This entire opinion is inspired by Mehmet Oz, also known as Dr. Oz, and his campaign for Senate earlier this year. Honestly, when I first saw that he was running, I thought it was a joke. Because, why on Earth would he run for Senate? This is someone who was previously proven to be selling fraudulent dietary supplements and has a history of promoting genuinely bizarre and misleading health advice. For instance, telling his audience that various minerals and substances can cure cancer. Like most television doctors, he effectively takes advantage of both the people on his show and his wider audience.
Even though he did lose his race for Senate, he shouldn’t have been able to run in the first place. Nothing in his background is related to politics, and his background as a doctor is questionable at best. But, having any kind of audience now equates to a political following. He ran for office as a grasp at greater power and relevancy, and because he knew that his celebrity status already gave him a supporter base.
This is a huge part of why Donald Trump won his presidential campaign, despite never having held elected office. Similarly, Kanye West’s presidential campaign can also be viewed as a narcissistic vie for attention.
This should not be why people run for office. In an ideal world, politicians would run out of a genuine desire to improve the world around them through legitimate and formal policy. At the very least, politicians should understand politics.