Celebrity Politicians Essay

This essay has a total of 3236 words and 12 pages.

Celebrity Politicians

The democratic government in place in the United States of America allows all Americans to
have their say in what occurs in this country. Through the power of the vote, Americans
can decide who they want to represent them in every level of the government. Getting
elected, however, is not as easy as it sounds. It would reasonable to assume that a
candidate would be elected to their position if they are more qualified than their
opponents. This however is becoming less and less true. Nowadays, instead of always voting
for the person who is the best at handling their prospective job, people are voting for
candidates who handle themselves the best during the campaign. The candidate who is the
most charismatic, funny, and outgoing is usually the person who is going to get elected.
This is becoming particularly true in the case of many celebrities who have entered the
field of politics. Although these people, who have gained fame in another field, are not
as qualified for the job as others in the election, they find themselves capturing the
majority of the vote anyway.

To truly understand how people with hardly any political experience can step right into
the spotlight and win an election, one must first understand what goes into a political
campaign. The first step for a want-to-be politician is to declare their entrance into the
election. Many people want this to take place at a large press conference. This is a step
in the election process where celebrities have a major advantage. Even if a celebrity
announces their entrance into an election in their basement, they will still get massive
amounts of press coverage. It is a big deal for celebrities to do something like this,
especially when they have no political background. For example, when Arnold Schwarzenegger
declared his entrance into the race for the governorship of California, he was the lead
story on news shows all over the country for the next week. If this was just ordinary
politician letting the world know that they were running for this position, they would
only receive a quick mention on the news and only in the state of California. By having
their name all over the news, the celebrity is getting the voting public to at least know
they are running for a certain position.

After the person has entered their name into the election, they must start to campaign.
There are many different ways to go about doing this, but one thing all campaign methods
have in common is cost. No matter how the candidate chooses to campaign prior to the
election, it is going to cost a lot of money.

There is however, one form of campaigning that reaches the most people in the quickest
amount of time. Television continually proves to have the largest effect on the voting
public and this proves to be another huge advantage for celebrities.

Television campaigning is not limited to commercials. Interviews and talk-show appearances
are more examples of how a candidate can get their face and views conveyed to the public.
Television is just another way celebrities have a substantial advantage over the
competition. Many shows continually request that people with star power appear on that
show. For ordinary people running for political office, this is hardly ever the case.
Also, celebrities have another advantage when it comes to television campaigning.
Commercials in prime-time slots can costs thousands of dollars to run. Often time,
celebrities have enormous amounts of money to spend on their campaign. Usually, an
election is won by the person who is willing to spend the most money on the election. In
the case of celebrity politicians, incredibly large amounts of money are able to be spent
on campaigns giving them a much greater chance of victory over their opponents.

With the recent news from California, when one thinks of celebrity politicians, the name
Arnold Schwarzenegger immediately comes to mind. Schwarzenegger, who gained fame through
his body building and movie career, had no political experience prior to entering the
California recall election. Schwarzenegger soon found himself being elected governor of
the state of California. This one example goes far in showing why an American voter votes
the way they do in a governmental election.

Schwarzenegger declared his entrance into the California recall election on the "Tonight
Show with Jay Leno." "At a time when other politicians hauled around briefcases full of
100-page platforms, Schwarzenegger spouted lines from his movies, gave no substantive
interviews and agreed to exactly one debate, for which he knew the questions in advance"
(Tumulty, 27). However, he still managed to pick up 49% of the vote, destroying all his
competition. He won in a landslide and never actually presented his feelings on issues
that were important to the people of the state of California.

There are many other examples of celebrities using their fame to propel them into the
field of politics. Jesse "The Body" Ventura, a former WWF wrestler, became the governor of
Minnesota. Jerry Springer worked his magic to become mayor of Cincinnati. Clint Eastwood
served as the mayor of Carmel, CA. Bill Bradley, who gained fame as a superstar basketball
player for the New York Knicks, served as a Democratic Senator for three terms. Sonny
Bono, another famous celebrity, served as a mayor in California and also as a Congressman.

Even presidents have used former celebrity status to help them win political elections.
Ronald Reagan was an actor before he became governor of California and consequently
president of the United States of America. Reagan was always a person who appealed to his
constituents, not because he was the best politician, but because he truly connected with
the voters. "Reagan demonstrated a skill that marked his career: he was a politician who
didn't seem to be a politician. He appealed to voters primarily as a human being, not as
an ideologue" (Seib, 91).

To understand how these people become politicians after being famous in another field, one
must first understand what goes through the mind on the American voter. Through the
National Election Studies (NES), it has been determined that voters look for four specific
characteristics in a candidate. The first is the competence of each candidate in terms of
intelligence and knowledge. The next if the effectiveness of the candidate determines
whether or not they can "get things done." The next characteristic is integrity measured
by morality and honesty. The last, empathy, determines if the candidate cares about his
constituents (Miller & Shanks, 416). These four characteristics are the top qualities the
voter looks for in a candidate. Although they seem very important, none of these traits
truly prove if a candidate is actually the most qualified person in an election.

To be elected, the candidate must express to the voter that they have these four important
traits. To get this word out, the candidate must effectively use every available medium.
Whether it is a televised debate or a radio address, the candidate must somehow show the
voting public that they possess competence, effectiveness, integrity and empathy. Ronald
Reagan was one of the first politicians to use mass media outlets as a way to get elected.
As a former actor, Reagan was a master of controlling the airwaves to his benefit.
"Reagan's career as an actor served him well. He could deliver a line with the appropriate
degree of conviction. He understood what the camera could do for him and do to him" (Seib,
90).

President Reagan was the first politician to use the television to his advantage. He made
himself appear much more qualified for the job of president while making his competition
seem much less qualified. The television, if utilized correctly, can be the most
influential tool in political elections. The television can be used to cover up a lack of
qualifications in a candidate and make it appear as if they are totally prepared to be a
politician. "The biggest effect television has had on our politics has been to lessen the
substance of the campaign itself. Its consequences are not less serious because they are
inadvertent. A serious discussion of an important issue rarely will get much air time"
(Reichley, 57-58). Other celebrity politicians, since Ronald Reagan won the presidential
election in 1980, have used to same blueprint of success. They often mask the true issues
and replace them with a "show" presented through mass media circuits.

Using the television and other communication methods to your advantage is only part of the
game. What is presented through the media is what determines the true outcome of an
election. For example, throughout the campaign in California, Arnold Schwarzenegger
continued to present the idea of being a "macho man" rather than present himself as a true
politician. His advantage throughout his career as an actor was that he was always a much
more handsome and he was much stronger than his counterparts. He used this to his
advantage to land himself very masculine roles such as the "Terminator" and "Conan the
Barbarian." He continued to use this to his advantage during his campaign. He never
stooped to the level of a "normal politician" but instead kept his macho man persona. This
went a long way in getting him elected governor of California. Rather than voting for
Arnold Schwarzenegger, the man who had sexual harassment allegations tossed at him, the
constituents voted for the manly character that he played in movies.

The same type of campaign was orchestrated by Ronald Reagan for the 1980 presidential
election. After becoming famous around the country as a very masculine hero in movies such
as "Hellcats of the Navy" and "This is the Army," Reagan found himself entering the field
of politics. First as a governor of California and then as the president, Reagan continued
his masculine image throughout his political career.
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