Friday, July 01, 2005

Pennsylvanians, Beware Of The Celebrity Candidate

So Lynn Swann, former wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers and now a sports commentator, wants to be governor of Pennsylvania. As one who is suffering under the governorship of a celebrity with no political experience and few political skills, I would like to take this opportunity to warn my fellow citizens on the opposite coast -- Be afraid!
Celebrity can get you elected, but it can't give you the knowledge and expertise you need to govern. Out here in California, Arnold Schwarzeneggar is demonstrating daily the dangers of putting know-nothing celebrities in office. He is in so far over his head that it's hard to imagine he can ever swim to the surface again.
Somehow he seemed to believe that his fame and fortune were sufficient weapons for him to take on four groups that he labeled as "special interests": Teachers, nurses, firefighers and police officers. Needless to say, his folly has backfired spectacularly, sending his popularity down into the range that led to the recall against Gray Davis that originally put Schwarzeneggar in office.
Like Arnold, Lynn Swann is backed by a Republican machine that believes it can unseat a Democratic governor by fronting a candidate with unusual appeal. Swann is not only a popular entertainer, he is black, which supposedly would appeal to citizens of color -- well, at least those who put celebrity-worship over their own well-being.
Celebrities have the same right to run for office as the rest of us. They are equally citizens. However, we all need to be careful to view their performances with a particular skepticism. These people are trained to appeal to the public. They practice their communications and seduction skills daily. That they can smile winningly and speak campaign slogans artfully does not mean they can govern.
The odious Ronald Reagan is, of course, our most illustrious example of a celebrity drawn to power beyond his skills. He sent the federal budget into a tailspin the likes of which have only recently been exceeded by our current office-holder, who exemplifies a different but equally dangerous species: The know-nothing child of privilege.
Americans seem to be torn when it comes to elected officials. On the one hand, they want people who seem like themselves. On the other hand, they worship celebrity. So what we are getting time after time are celebrities playing "down-home reformer" to the crowds. They portray themselves as a "different kind of politician" who will cut through the crap and get to the heart of government. Remember Jesse Ventura?
As legislators, these characters may be less dangerous (Fred Thompson, Sonny Bono) but in executive office, they constitute one disaster after another.
So wake up Pennsylvanians and learn from the pain we in California are feeling.