Donald Trump and the Legacy of the Celebrity Politician

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Andrew Oliver
   Staff Writer

When talking about Donald Trump and his family, one issue is always raised: what qualifies a family of politically inexperienced celebrities to hold such high executive office in the United States, a country that has long prided itself as being a bold and unashamed meritocracy?

Since the 1800s, and the presidency of Chester Arthur, this country has prided itself on doing away with the spoils system, combatting phony elections, and electing only those who were qualified for the positions for which they were considered.

However, many see the election of Donald Trump, and the advent of Ivanka Trump getting an office in the White House, as a rejection of these former achievements and values. After all, what could celebrities know about running a country and dealing with delicate foreign affairs?

Of course, electing famous celebrities to positions of political power, even the presidency, is not unheard of in this country. Ronald Reagan, a film actor turned politician, is the most famous example. Then, of course, there’s Arnold Schwarzenegger, another Californian film actor elected to governor of the state. He’d probably run for president if he was a native-born citizen, and given the turnout of the last election, he might win.

So what makes Donald Trump and his family any different? If other celebrities have held office without the country falling apart, what has everyone so scared about it now?

For starters, the aforementioned examples, Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger, had, in some capacity or another, been involved in politics before reaching their highest offices, the presidency and governorship, respectively.

Arnold Schwarzenegger had been appointed to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports under George H.W. Bush, a position in which he served from 1990 to 1993. He had also been Chairman of California Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports under Governor Pete Wilson.

These are not major political offices, but it shows that Schwarzenegger had some sort of political experience before seeking election for the position of governor for one of the United States’ largest states, both geographically and economically. Ronald Reagan, famously, had been a notable union leader before becoming governor of California, and then, of course, president of the United States.

So then, even as we elected these celebrities to positions of significant political power, it was deemed reasonable due to the fact that these people had some understanding of how the American political system worked. Through their previous political work, they had learned of the nuance of politics, their sense of which only grew as they governed from their elected positions.

Regardless of what one thinks of Ronald Reagan or Arnold Schwarzenegger, they had experience in politics, and understood how it worked on more than a basic level. The issue, then, with Donald Trump and his celebrity family taking such high office, is that this is the only political experience they have had in their lives.

He has not been so much as a union leader or a member of a local city council. He has little to no familiarity with the political system, and this is made clear in his many not-so-surprising statements about matters of policy.

“Nobody knew health care could be so complicated,” Trump said, regarding the shift away from Obamacare to a new replacement bill. For one who is not a politically ignorant celebrity, the complications of healthcare policy are more than obvious.

This is the kind of behavior and lack of experience that is making the country an international laughing stock. It reflects poorly on the nation as a whole when our leader does not even seem to be aware of the complexities regarding long-debated and inherently difficult domestic policy.

It seems that after a campaign fueled by what I believe to be a carefully crafted kind of ignorance and unchecked vitriol towards others, President Trump seeks to run his presidency in a way that makes his campaign look tame and intelligent by comparison.

I have no issue with a populist becoming president. In my opinion, the less similar a candidate or governmental official is to the majority of other politicians in this country, the better they are, but Donald Trump meets this criteria in a bad way.

He is unlike other politicians, not because he genuinely cares about people more than money or special interests, but because he is, more so than possibly any other politician in office at the moment, gravely unfamiliar with the American political system and its processes.

To be apart from our admittedly corrupt and largely-failed system is not a bad thing. To be a celebrity is not, in and of itself, a bad thing, but coming into the most important political office in this country without the slightest knowledge of how to navigate it is a whole other story. It makes the whole country look like idiots.



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