October 16, 2021
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California Politics: The governor’s all-powerful veto
Meet Sen. Bryan Hughes, the Texas Republican leading the party’s hard turn to the right
Celebrity cooking demonstrations to be held this weekend. Here are the details
Ron Watkins, who many speculate might be QAnon, eyes Congressional run in Arizona
Bow-and-arrow attack believed to be act of terror; GOP’s record cash haul; Adele’s new album
Littwin: If only the strange case of Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters actually was strange
Celebrity birthdays for the week of Oct. 17-23 – Belleville News-Democrat
Opinion | Who Really Controls Local Politics?
After AOC’s Met Gala stunt, I’m officially done with Democrats
Podcast: How a pandemic shaped California politics – Santa Ynez Valley News
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California Politics: The governor’s all-powerful veto Meet Sen. Bryan Hughes, the Texas Republican leading the party’s hard turn to the right Celebrity cooking demonstrations to be held this weekend. Here are the details Ron Watkins, who many speculate might be QAnon, eyes Congressional run in Arizona Bow-and-arrow attack believed to be act of terror; GOP’s record cash haul; Adele’s new album Littwin: If only the strange case of Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters actually was strange Celebrity birthdays for the week of Oct. 17-23 – Belleville News-Democrat Opinion | Who Really Controls Local Politics? After AOC’s Met Gala stunt, I’m officially done with Democrats Podcast: How a pandemic shaped California politics – Santa Ynez Valley News

Opinion | Memo to celebrity candidates: It’s not as easy as you think

And most of those celebrities are about to find out why running for office is harder than it looks.

Celebrity and politics collided long before Donald Trump came on the scene, of course. My first glimpse of the future came in 1998, when I was a young reporter covering the governorship of Jesse “The Body” Ventura, a former pro wrestler, in Minnesota.

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Ventura, who for a time ranked among the most influential political figures in America, turned out to be the opening act for candidates including Arnold Schwarzenegger and Al Franken, whose movie and TV fame stood in for any traditional kind of résumé.

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Then came Sarah Palin, who hit the national stage as an obscure governor but quickly found her true calling as a reality-TV character.

(Some readers will maintain that the celebritizing of our politics really started with Ronald Reagan, though I would point out that by the time he first ran for president in 1976, Reagan was already a longtime politician and the leader of a serious movement.)

Then along came Trump, who took the intertwining of politics and entertainment to a new level, demonstrating that a TV personality who knew almost nothing about governance — and didn’t particularly care to learn — could essentially hijack an entire political party and use it to snag the presidency. And all without spending almost any of his own fortune.

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Inevitably, that would lure other, perhaps nobler, celebrities into what Theodore Roosevelt called “the arena,” encouraged by parties who love a famous candidate.

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Which brings us back to Walker and McConaughey, the celebrities of the moment (along with the author J.D. Vance, a less recognizable celebrity who is making a Senate run in Ohio).

Let’s leave aside for now that Walker, a Republican, apparently hasn’t lived in Georgia for decades and last played football in 1997 — which means that, to voters under 35, he might as well be Walker, Texas Ranger.

And let’s not linger on the fact that McConaughey — whose acting work I love — won’t even say which party (if any) he would like to lead, or that he’s best known lately for a bunch of TV ads in which he seems to be coming unglued while driving a Lincoln.

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No, the real problem for these potential candidates — and for other celebrity entrants soon to follow — is that Trump made it all look easy. And it’s really not.

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Even if you share my contempt for Trump and his manifestly unpatriotic presidency, you have to admit that it’s not as though he won the presidential lottery. The guy came to the table with some rare attributes, if you want to call them that.

For one thing, Trump possessed an unusual entertaining talent — not the kind that comes from reading lines persuasively (he can’t) or entrancing people with his sheer physicality (come on now), but the kind that enables him to extemporaneously hold an audience for hours, mostly because he will say anything to shock their sensibilities or add fuel to their outrage.

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Very few people alive have that ability or its necessary companion — an almost pathological need to be the center of attention.

Second, Trump came to politics with a single, driving message: seething, White resentment of elites and others. He didn’t discover that message by polling the issues. It’s the animating theme of his life.

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And finally, Trump jumped into the arena without a trace of conscience. He offered himself up as a vehicle for the basest form of populism, without regard for the truth or how his rhetoric might impact the country.

How many celebrities have the capacity for that kind of recklessness, without getting pulled into the more complicated calculations that even halfway healthy adults make whenever they speak?

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The problem for famous newcomers, ultimately, is that while celebrity itself might get you a hearing in politics, only a certain kind of celebrity can fully compensate for a total lack of experience or governing philosophy — and that’s the kind that provokes and distracts, rather than enlightens.

Absent the demagoguery, you’re more likely, sooner or later, to become just another candidate giving people answers they don’t want to hear, or clumsily trying to sidestep the questions.

There’s not much new or entertaining about that.

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