Recently, #Oprah2020 was trending across the social media landscape. The aforementioned hashtag refers to the possible United States presidential run by famous TV talk show host and billionaire Oprah Winfrey. A few years ago, the idea that someone who has made their career out of self-help advice and working in news would have any possibility of becoming the President of the United States, the most esteemed and powerful public office in the world, would have been laughed at. There have been several actors and media personalities who have been elected in this country in the past, but they were usually elected to lower offices and in the infamous case of former actor Ronald Reagan, he had a career in politics for many years before moving into the white house.
This current phenomenon is different. With celebrities like Kid Rock and Kanye West making similar plans to campaign for office in the near future, the caliber of these potential candidates is in question. While Oprah should be commended for her success in TV and long history of philanthropy, what justifies giving her the power of the oval office? What does Kanye West have to offer in terms of leadership? Is Kid Rock really a model citizen that should be given political power?
The reason for the myriad of presidential hopefuls that have surfaced in the past year is without a doubt the 2016 campaign and subsequent election of Donald Trump to the office of president. Donald Trump, more than anyone resembles the typical american celebrity. He is famous, rich, and above all truly believes the American fiction that all his success and wealth is the product of his own virtue. Many like myself believed that his election was impossible. He was too indecent, too morally despicable, and just too ridiculous to become president. The electorate would not allow it, but in an unexpected turn, he won the presidency by a thin margin, and has been governing our country for the past year. His election did a few things to change the political geography of the country, but more than anything, it reinforced that fiction. So now the rich and famous of all varieties have delusions of grandeur, and in addition to the media types, tech giants like Mark Zuckerberg are also predicted to throw their hat in the ring in the coming years.
Herein lies the problem. We have a crisis of leadership in this country. We have elected thieves and con-men to run our country, and allow our social movements to be lead by limousine-liberals. Instead of men and women of knowledge and virtue in charge, we give all power to the rich and popular. Our system might be giving us what we want, but it is not giving us what we need. This is particularly infuriating in my own camp (the left), where people who were a year ago chastising Trump for his lack of experience and temperament (a fair criticism) are now willing to rally behind a self-absorbed social media tycoon. This begs a deeper question. Who is fit to lead?
This is a question that has been tackled by philosophers for centuries, and has been specifically pressing in a post-enlightenment world. The burden of government is a heavy one, and we must require more of the one who would carry it. We could require strength of them, but then we would also need wisdom, because without wisdom, strength is dangerous, and without strength, wisdom’s edge is blunt. The exact requisites of a good leader are complicated, but I know that our dear president is not the model of what I would call a good leader. I do not want to see this trend continue in the administration that follows his. My hope is that we, as an informed electorate, might choose better. For Christians it should be easy. We know what a leader is supposed to be. It’s right in the manual, and while no presidential candidate can live up to that expectation, we should look to leaders who follow that example.