The Case: Matthew McConaughey for Governor

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Welcome to ‘The Case,’ a new series from Signal that explores who the potential Democratic candidates for Governor of Texas in 2022 are and why they could be our next governor. Up first, Signal’s Cultural Attaché William Kim explores the case to keep l-i-v-i-n’. This is The Case for Matthew McConaughey.

Given Gov. Greg Abbott’s poor approval ratings in the wake of COVID-19 and the overall leftward shift of Texas, 2022 represents the best chance for Democrats to win the Governor’s Mansion in a while. While the Democrats have many great candidates to choose from, I believe Matthew McConaughey would be the best candidate they could put forward. 

Speculation has been buzzing that the movie star will run for governor. McConaughey has been increasingly using his platform to highlight important societal issues, hosting a Q&A with Dr. Anthony Fauci on the pandemic and discussing race with NFL star Emmanuel Acho. He also has a memoir due to be released this October, and releasing a book is a typical pre-campaign move. Regardless of whether or not McConaughey will throw his hat in the ring, the point is that he should. 

Is a Hollywood actor the best qualified to be governor? Not exactly. But does he have the best shot at winning? I believe so, and that’s what matters most. Great policy ideas don’t mean anything if you can’t get in power and implement them. Republicans have understood this for decades. Democrats, as the Lincoln Project’s Rick Wilson put it, would rather win a policy discussion than an election. From now on we need to play to win. 

Unfortunately, experience isn’t what wins elections. If that were the case a reality TV star would never have defeated a former secretary of state with decades of experience in public service. In fact, experience can be seen as a negative by those who have lost faith in the political system and want outsider candidates. 

McConaughey would be a great candidate because he has an abundance of the qualities that do win elections. First, McConaughey already has plenty of name recognition. One of the biggest challenges in a political campaign is simply getting voters to know who you are. As one of the most famous actors in the world, McConaughey doesn’t need to worry about that at all. And there’s no doubt that a McConaughey gubernatorial run would be the talk of the town.

Second, McConaughey is extraordinarily charismatic. His Texas drawl and charming personality is a large part of what made him such a successful actor and those qualities would translate well into politics. McConaughey could use his charisma to inspire and energize voters in a state notorious for low turnout, during a midterm election when Democrats are generally less likely to show up to the polls. 

Also worth noting is McConaughey’s ability to offer both the left and right something that they badly want: to feel seen by their government. Throughout the pandemic, McConaughey has issued a series of empathetic and inspirational social media videos that aimed not to preach to Texans but made an effort to understand the hardships we have been experiencing during the pandemic. This is a time when people desperately want to feel connected to their leaders and rediscover our shared passions and values. McConaughey could give us that.

Finally, politics is largely about telling a story. McConaughey not only has powerful narrative skills from his acting career, but he also has a great story to tell. He’s a native son of Texas who attended and later taught at UT Austin, so Republicans couldn’t paint him as a parachute candidate. McConaughey’s career is also an inspiring story of ups and downs. McConaughey was long known for being typecast in romantic comedies and taking off his shirt, but he later proved his serious acting chops in films like Dallas Buyers Club. The McConaissance is a story of overcoming adversity and proving yourself when no one believes in you.

If you want someone with more experience and policy chops running Texas, get them to run against Dan Patrick. In Texas, the lieutenant governor has more power than the governor anyway. McCougnahey could drive turnout in the election while a more wonky lieutenant governor could handle policy once the Democrats gained power. 

Admittedly, it’s a long shot that McCougnahey would run, but Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Jesse Ventura prove that the possibility should not be dismissed out of hand. Regardless of whether McConaughey actually does run for governor, it would be a lot cooler if he did. 

Who would you love to see run for Governor in 2022? Drop us a line at editor@texassignal.com

Photo: Moody College of Communications/ Wikimedia Commons

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