It is an understatement to say that celebrity involvement was an influence in the 2016 presidential election, so it is ultimately inevitable that it will play a key role in 2020. From televised support by Ellen DeGeneres to surprise pop up concerts in New York by Madonna, the Democrat candidate, Hillary Clinton, had her fair share of celebrity endorsement, even though in the end, this was not enough to surpass the celebrity Republican candidate, Donald Trump. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean it is good for political processes and democracy in the US, especially with some celebrities now looking towards the most powerful political position in the world.
November 3, 2020 is set to be the day of reckoning for the 2020 presidential election - there are many celebrities who are rumoured to want to run for the Oval Office and not just endorse a particular candidate, one example being ‘The Rock’. Dwayne Johnson attended both the Republican and Democratic conventions in 2000 as a part of a voter registration drive run by the WWE, however Business Insider claims that he is a registered Republican voter, with this potential bid for the presidency being his most recent political activity. When speaking to Rolling Stone magazine, Johnson doesn’t make an outright claim that he will run in 2020, but he does state that “what Trump has proved is that anybody can run for President”, potentially implying that this is an option open to many people, including celebrities like himself. However, he does make it clear he wants to “go to work and learn” as he recognises Presidential politics being “a skillset that requires years and years of experience” on local, state and national levels. History also shows that if he runs as a Republican candidate, the odds are not in his favour as no primary challenger has ever defeated an incumbent president of the same party.
On the other side of the politics, there have been a few celebrity Democrat candidates rumoured to want to move to the fore in 2020. A prominent example is Oprah Winfrey who, after her Golden Globes speech on January 8, 2018, faced a surge in support for her to run for the Oval Office. She has previously supported Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton but proclaimed she has “never considered the question even a possibility”, when talking to David Rubenstein on Bloomberg Television. Whilst her support base is strong, it is incredibly unlikely that her election would be successful; there is yet to be a female president of the US let alone a woman of colour, and like Dwayne Johnson, she faces disadvantages in terms of knowledge and prior experience in politics.
However, regardless of speculations about the potential success of future celebrity presidential candidates, there are questions concerning what this means for American politics. Celebrity involvement is more palatable than running for political office; once the election is over, the celebrities are generally forgotten, and trained individuals can move forward with running the country. However, with some seeking high office, there is a chance that knowledge, experience and wisdom from ‘trained’ politicians will be undermined by novices. Therefore, candidates like Kamala Harris and Cory Booker who could be running for the Democrats in 2020 will have the significance of their experience diminished almost instantly. They will be usurped by someone with a well-known face and a lot of money which, helps to fund their campaigns.
Many argue that allowing this type of celebrity involvement makes democracy more accessible to everyone and it encourages participation. However, surely this will do the opposite. We are growing up in an age of social media, and celebrities are taking full advantage of this. Yes, it may involve younger generations in the political process, but many of these will be under the voting age of eighteen, so they are unable to participate. Instead, it may mean traditional voters are disenfranchised as they are unable to connect with candidates.
Ultimately, having celebrities elected to the Oval Office cheapens democracy as it makes it evident that if you have money, you can run for President - the greatest political position in the world. However, no matter speculation about who or the potential effects, this is a clearly an issue which will come to the fore as we head towards 2020.