Rumors are buzzing that Matthew McConaughey will run for governor of Texas. Could there be any truth to this?
The evidence appears flimsy at best. The actor and Texas native has never expressed any interest in running and the rumors are coming from blogs and talk radio. Much of the speculation appears to be fueled by the fact that McConaughey has been increasingly vocal on socio-political issues like racism and COVID-19 in recent months. Yet celebrities using their platform to express political opinions is hardly a unique phenomenon, and most celebrities who do so never run for office.
Yet the idea of McConaughey running for governor is not as crazy as it sounds and stranger things have happened in American politics.
First, it’s hard to argue that he wouldn’t at least have a shot at winning should he throw his hat in the ring. The Oscar-winner is one of the most well-known and popular actors working today, especially after the “McConaissance” of the early 2010s. McConaughey’s mix of name recognition, natural charisma, and easy-going persona would serve him well in politics. And should he run in 2022, he’d be facing a GOP incumbent wracked by an inept COVID-19 response in a state trending blue.
And for those who are skeptical that a Hollywood actor can win, just look at the other celebrities who have successfully pivoted toward politics. Arnold Schwarzenegger successfully ran for governor of California in the early 2000s, not long after his Predator co-star Jesse Ventura had been elected governor of Minnesota. After a long career in Hollywood, Ronald Reagan went on to become governor of California and then President of the United States. The rise of the celebrity politician culminated in the election of President Donald Trump, a reality TV star with no prior political experience (or any relevant experience really).
Several factors can explain America’s love of celebrity politicians. First, most people already know who they are. The first hurdle of most political campaigns is simply getting voters familiar with the candidate, and by definition, celebrities are already past that hurdle.
Second, the skills required to be a successful actor are similar to those required to be a successful politician. Orson Welles once said that he didn’t think politicians were crooks, he thought they were actors. It’s not just that actors are good at lying, they’re good at telling a story.
Finally, Americans have grown quite skeptical of the political establishment and often look to outsiders to fix the system. In that sense, a celebrity’s lack of political experience can be an asset rather than a drawback.
Should Matthew McConaughey decide to run for governor, it wouldn’t be a bizarre aberration but rather part of a broader phenomenon. As his character in True Detective put it, “time is a flat circle.”
Photo: Moody College of Communications/ Wikimedia Commons