The Rock for President: Hindsight is 2020
Haven't we learned by now? Have the last six months taught us nothing? Not everyone can be a good president. Most people can't even be an okay president. In fact, the vast majority of people shouldn't be the president. Especially people who don't know how to be president. This makes sense, right? RIGHT??
This week, some freelance writer named Kenton Tilford filed records for Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson with the Federal Election Commission to run for President in 2020. While it's unclear whether Johnson is in any way connected to Tilford, he has commented on several separate occasions – an Instagram post following a Washington Post piece, an interview on Fallon, and an SNL sketch – on the possibility and the likelihood of running a campaign.
The Rock is interesting. He supports good causes, vocally and monetarily. He makes like three movies every year. He occasionally returns to the WWE and talks in the third person. He even has a campaign slogan ready to go (can you smell what the Rock is cookin'). He's cool enough that I was ready to renew my annual pass to his movies even after Baywatch. None of those, unfortunately, have anything to do with being president.
Funnily enough, the legal qualifications for being president aren't that incredible. You have to be 35 years old, been born in the United States, been a resident for 14 years, and can't have been elected president twice already. So theoretically, you could have been born in Canada like Ted Cruz, be as old as Jamie Dornan, and had the political proficiency of Nixon, and still run for president. An underrated point is that the average life expectancy in the late 1700s was right around 35 years, maxing out around 40 – meaning that presidents were absolutely the most experienced people around. Before Trump, every president was either a soldier or lawyer or politician, with the exceptions of Reagan (blessed be thy name) and Herbert Hoover (an engineer, but still a cabinet secretary). There was an implied barrier to entry, but never an explicit one.
And it's not completely unwarranted – a fundamental premise of the American experiment is that 'anyone can be president'. But as we discussed, 'can' doesn't imply 'should'. Public office is an interesting career, since the majority of the positions are elected, on the premise that 'politicians represent people in government and should thus be chosen by people'. But that's not true of any other profession. A doctor is representing your body for you, and arguably has an equivalent impact on the way you live your life as a politician does. The same is true of a teacher, who represents you by proxy of your kids. Or a cosmetologist, really. Even a presidential cabinet member has an interview and a confirmation hearing. If you ignore the fact that this is the way it's always been done, it's inherently weird that politicians are elected as opposed to selected.
For any of the other professions, there's a job interview. A rubric of some kind is involved. There's a hierarchical way of determining the best candidate, with excel-spreadsheet-level precision. For politicians, the interview is conducted individually by millions of people. No rubric, no hierarchy, no spreadsheet. In a way, a decision is made almost as arbitrarily as what you choose to eat for lunch on election day. And that's how we end up where we do. The real barrier to entry is who can actually run. Those people are screened out at the party level, supposedly leaving us with the best candidates come primaries. But if some not-so-great ones sneak past that filter, by virtue of money or status or celebrity, then we've lost our implicit check. And The Rock is dangerously close to doing just that – he's got the latter two, so he just needs a half-billion dollars to get him through the campaign. That's no big deal, he could write and direct a movie where he runs for president where he plays all the roles (in a Tatiana Maslany-esque fashion), and then use the profits to actually run for president.
An outlier is just that, an outlier. It might weigh your mean down a tad bit, but it doesn't replace the mean entirely. If anything, this should embolden us to raise the bar, not bury it in the ground. Complacency is how we got here in the first place; continuing it only leads us further into the abyss. We were complacent with the fact that Obama was better than Bush, and took it for granted that competency had re-entered the White House. And now we're complacent that someone like The Rock will be better than Trump, and that's good enough. Which it isn't, because an actual rock would probably be better than Trump (although notably less skilled on Twitter). Screw baby steps, we're going to take enough of those over the next three and a half years.
This isn't a fucking joke. At one point it was – when Trump rode an escalatorinto his campaign announcement. Even when he called Mexicans rapists, there was some air of 'let the clown have his moment' about it. But 60 million votes later, we've had impulse bombings of Syria, withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, a budget disguised as a healthcare plan, and some combination of gross ineptitude and intentional maliciousness when it comes to Russia. Through all this, we haven't managed to grasp that actions have consequences. Not having opinions, being anemic to the issues, voting for a third party, abstaining from voting – including in local and state elections – all have consequences.
Tilford – the man who filed the paperwork – claims on his LinkedIn page to be an "experienced political writer" capable of "quantitative analysis" that understands "fault-lines in American politics". He also includes 'Microsoft Word' among his skills, which is always refreshing. Maybe he's been asleep for a year, or busy cultivating a mustache, but apparently he hasn't had time to observe the biggest fault-line in American political history: an entertainment celebrity in the White House.
We even had a movie about this! The 2006 film Idiocracy starred Terry Crews as a wrestler turned president whose first name was actually Dwayne! In a political arena, The Rock is an honest fool – the worst kind. He means well, but his lack of a long or positive track record in the government sector coupled with his popularity in a checks-and-balances system is frightening. Being a sincere, decent person is under the 'preferred skills' part of the job listing, not the 'required experience'. But this isn't a referendum on his potential to be a good president, it's a critique of his ability to even enter this metaphorical ring.