Recently, activist Michael Moore said he believed the actor Matt Damon should be the democratic nominee for president instead of Barrack Obama. “I think that [Matt Damon] has been very courageous in not caring about who he offends by saying the things that need to be said," Moore explained. "And I guess I only throw his name out there because I’d like us to start thinking that way.” Yet, should actors really run for the presidency? We’re all told that politicians are great actors but can great actors be politicians? Possibly not.
The archetypal actor-politician was undoubtedly Ronald Reagan. Viewed by many across the nation as the greatest president, Reagan had a steady, post-acting political career, including governor of California, until he won the presidency in 1980. It is said his charm and charisma, which he learned on screen and stage, helped him smooth over critics, schmooze allies, and handle the press. Some might argue that it was his actor attributes that made him the president that many fondly remember.
Equally, Jerry Springer, not strictly speaking an actor but still a showbiz personality, was also successful; he was both on the city council and served as mayor of Cincinnati at various points during the 1970s, before making a failed run for the governorship of Ohio in 1982. His surprising honesty and swift resignation during a sex scandal in 1974, made him an even bigger political success, winning a landslide reelection in 1975. Ex-New York Congressman Anthony Wiener should take notes.
There is also a rumour, not yet confirmed, that Alec Baldwin might challenge Michael Bloomberg for mayor of New York. Let us also not forget the "Governator" Arnold Scharwzengger, who after his mundane governorship, chose to have his sex scandal post-office.
So with such precedent, could Damon be the ideal Democrat nominee in these troubled times? Well, he has got an excellent defense-national security record (Bourne Identity, Supremacy, Ultimatum) and great foreign policy experience (Syriana). His fiscal policies are a touch risky (Oceans 11, 12, 13), but are made up for by his fantastic leadership qualities (Invictus).
On a serious note, Damon has done some considerably hard graft on humanitarian issues, especially with the H2O Africa Foundation and his work in Darfur, but this is not enough to be president.
Presidents have to be familiar with the Washington political machine in order to be successful and be somewhat impervious to attacks of "elitism" and being out of touch. Obama is frequently referred to as "professorial" on account of his stellar educational career; what would he be called if he also had a fourth home in Malibu? Whilst actors might breathe a breath of fresh air into the political process, they are not the answer but often an exception in it.
Working in politics requires grit, commitment, and compassion, and it is up to us, the voters, to determine which candidates are genuine in their desire to better our society and advance the nation. These qualities might, of course, be present in an actor but once again this would be an exception rather than the rule.
However, hypothetically speaking, Moore backed the wrong actor for president; he should back Martin Sheen instead.
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