OPINION: Celebrity politicians have an unfair advantage

Fame, access to money give candidates head start to campaign season



Celebrities have more tools at their disposal compared to other candidates who might not have the same access to resources and funds. Famous figures may have an advantage, but it does not mean they would be a bad politician.

BRUCE MULMAT, Evergreen columnist

Celebrities and pop culture figures might be fun to watch, but when they run for office they can pose a threat to the democratic process.

“We have a history in the United States [of celebrities in politics],” Travis Ridout, WSU political science professor, said. “Ronald Reagan, who was governor of California and then president … Astronauts like John Glen used to get into politics.”

These celebrities are not necessarily bad candidates for office, rather their fame and access to money gives them a critical head start during campaigns. This money, along with name recognition, generally makes them far more likely to win whatever position they run for.

“It used to be more military generals, Grant or Washington for instance,” Ridout said. “It’s not completely new, this intermingling of celebrity and politics.”

Generally, the candidate with the most money and the biggest name recognition will win, and therefore someone who is famous can push many people out of their way during their attempt to run for office.

“I don’t think that [celebrities in politics] should be mainstream. For example, Cardi B takes more of the headlines and runs with it rather than taking in the details,” said Zach Babcock, sophomore political science major. “If you’re an actor or a musician, politics isn’t exactly your subject.”

This lack of experience may not be a bad thing to some voters, yet it is important to understand the system one is working in. Voting for someone who has no experience would be like asking a toddler to do your taxes for you. 

“I think it’s difficult for some people to make that transition from celebrity to politician,” Ridout said.

People think that an outsider’s perspective could be beneficial and shake up the political system. But a lack of experience means that it would be harder for these celebrities to work to benefit their constituents. 

Yet the real issue is how these famous figures have far more tools at their disposal than someone who might be a low-level politician. Money is the root of the issue for politics, and it will continue to be this way for the foreseeable future. Since money is so critical to running a successful campaign, celebrities who choose to run for office will continue to have an unfair leg up.

However, this does not mean celebrities will always be bad politicians. 

“[They can do well] if their intent is good and they are willing to educate themselves,” Babcock said. “They bring in their own perspectives.”  

Many famous people have become great or at least passable politicians, so there is no reason to assume that every celebrity would be a bad public servant. The real issue is campaign finance. Every person in the United States should be able to run for office and have a chance to help the people around them.