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Last November, actor Matthew McConaughey finally announced his long-anticipated decision regarding a potential run for the Texas Governorship. “As a simple kid born in the little town of Uvalde, Texas, it never occurred to me that I would one day be considered for political leadership,” he said in a video posted on Twitter. The idea of him being considered for leadership, however undeserving and mystifying it may be, was not an untruthful claim. Polls showed the actor in a dead heat with Republican incumbent Greg Abbott, often polling as the best opponent to Abbott as well. 

His potential support notwithstanding, McConaughey announced he would not seek the Governorship, saying that political leadership is “a humbling and inspiring path to ponder. It is also a path that I’m choosing not to take at this moment.” Texans, Republican or Democrat, should rejoice at this decision. The last thing a state as large and influential as Texas needs is an attention-grabbing, distracting, politically inexperienced actor who refused to give a straight answer on almost any issue of contention. Though polls had shown Democrats to be far more supportive of McConaughey than their Republican counterparts, it wasn’t even clear what party the actor would align with. There was little transparency in his intentions, and the whole situation reeked of celebrity stunting. 

Then, just a day later, daytime television host Mehmet Oz, commonly known as Dr. Oz, announced he would be running to become the junior senator from Pennsylvania. Oz is just one of many unserious celebrity candidates vying to hold political office in 2022’s midterm elections. It isn’t a new idea, as in the past, actors like Arnold Schwarzenegger have become governors of large states like California, and Ronald Reagan was even able to become president. Some may also point to Donald Trump, but Trump had a long history of flirting with politics and a political IQ that current celebrity candidates don’t sniff. What is new is the apparent increase in the frequency of these candidates, as well as their increased chance of success. 

Dr. Oz, for example, is leading in the Real Clear Politics polling average among Republican primary candidates as of early March. Herschel Walker, former college football and NFL legend, is the de facto Republican nominee this November for the Georgia senate race. Recent polling has had him up 60 points over his closest competitor. That in two of the most contested battleground elections in the country, these are the candidates finding success, says a lot. Voters seem more open than ever before to celebrity candidates with no political experience, scant political knowledge and incoherent or nonexistent policy views. None of this is to be celebrated. It only increases the perception that politics is nothing more than an unserious game to be played. In such a contentious, complicated, and dangerous time for American democracy, it is the last thing this country needs. 

All of this is not to say every high-ranking public official ought to be Ivy-educated and an experienced officeholder. There is much to be admired about political outsiders, everyday Americans running for and winning public office. However, this only works when the individuals have taken time to understand the American government and how it works, and what we have endured recently is often anything but that. Take football coach-turned-Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville. Tuberville has consistently made some dumbfounding remarks, remarks that no person at such a high level of government should ever be caught making. 

He infamously stated that there are three branches of government, these being “our three branches, the house, the senate, and the executive.” Or there was the time he suggested delaying the inauguration of now-President Joe Biden. Like other celebrity candidates, Tuberville often avoids interacting with the public, has held few interviews and refused to participate in debates. Yet Tuberville was simply able to win based on the “R” next to his name, along with his legendary football status. Voters on both sides of the aisle now seem content with electing individuals so long as they can provide a popular face to their political party, political and administrative knowledge be damned. 

The main fault in all of this does not lie with the celebrities; it lies with the citizens electing them. Time and time again voters show that they are willing to elect, or at the very least lend a friendly ear to, highly questionable celebrity candidates. Many of these aspiring officeholders have no political experience, aren’t willing to engage with their potential constituents and appear as though they didn’t pass their high school civics class. This is in part due to the fact that voters will support whoever shares their party identification, but also in the fact that voters often do not take politics seriously

It’s part of why sometimes less than half of eligible voters vote. Americans increasingly view politics and government as a game, and this is due in part to the increasingly dubious and rowdy actions of U.S. public officials. This game-like mentality, where winning is all that matters and the consequences of policy and who is in charge of government is often cast aside, is deeply problematic. Voters care only that their party-affiliated candidate wins, and they often have little worry about policy chops or their campaign. Whether voters realize it or not, politicians influence their lives every day, both at the micro and macro level. Their actions have the potential to make or break American lives, livelihoods and futures, and it is time the American people act as such, starting by ignoring those like McConaughey, Oz and Tuberville.

Devon Hesano is an Opinion Columnist & can be reached at