Despite initial appeal, political outsiders fall short as presidents

Despite initial appeal, political outsiders fall short as presidents

Most people don’t like politicians. They often avoid questions, cherry-pick statistics, and sometimes outright lie. The public’s trust of politicians is at a historic low, having steadily declined to 19 percent over the last 60 years. For this reason, voters everywhere have often looked for candidates who don’t associate with the establishment and in turn, politicians everywhere have tried to convince the public that they’re “non-political, working-class political outsiders” regardless of their actual (and usually political) background. Although this is a practice nearly as old as politics itself, the allure of political outsiders has never ceased to tempt voters who are exhausted by the never-ending cycle that is Washington. Calls for popular figures like musicians, actors, or TV personalities to run for public office have been heard for ages, but they’ve rarely been answered.

Career politicians have tried to separate their political ties from themselves for quite a while now, a practice dating back to the presidential elections of the 1820s. Despite having served in both houses of Congress, Andrew Jackson, dubbed himself “the fighter” in order to separate from his opponent, John Quincy Adams. Abraham Lincoln was a self-proclaimed “rail-splitter,” even though he had 10 years of experience in the House of Representatives. Calvin Coolidge was a self-proclaimed “farmer’s boy” who just happened to be governor of Massachusetts. There have been many presidents whose everyman status was a campaign ploy, but the United States hadn’t really seen anyone win using their actual lack of experience as their selling point.

That is, until November 2016 rolled around.

Donald Trump was, for once, a true outsider. Best known for his TV series, The Celebrity Apprentice, as well as his many business ventures, it’s safe to say that at first, his largest source of appeal was not his policies. Trump’s larger-than-life personality, celebrity status, and resonance with pockets of the public allowed him his win over Hillary Clinton, a candidate who was practically the poster child of the establishment. In doing this, Trump  set a precedent for all of the celebrity presidential candidates to come, and was representing authentic political outsiders on the biggest stage: the executive branch. Many people dismissed the demand for musicians, actors, and entertainers in office as foolish, but this president could prove them all wrong.

Needless to say, he did not prove them wrong.

Regardless of political beliefs, Trump’s actions in office highlight all of the flaws with non-politicians running for office. Trump foregos press conferences in favor of Twitter, and his often impulsive comments and Twitter rants could easily start wars or destroy alliances at any time. This is certainly one of Trump’s defining traits, and a flaw that stems from his lack of political experience. No experienced politician would call North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “little rocket man” on Twitter because there are obvious repercussions for that sort of thing. But for an outsider like Trump, these ramifications may not be as apparent as they would be to a long-time politician.

What’s worse, Trump hardly makes an effort to increase his clear lack of political and historical knowledge. At a Black History Month event, he said “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice,” which raises a few concerns. Frederick Douglass died in 1895, which leads me to wonder how he could be getting increasingly noticed as he was a prominent figure in the Abolition Movement. He hasn’t made the greatest effort to fix this lack of awareness however, admitting that he hasn’t read the biography of any president, and The Washington Post reported he “rarely if ever reads the President’s Daily Brief, a document that lays out the most pressing information collected by U.S. intelligence agencies from hot spots around the world.”

Criticism of Trump is nothing new, and nothing unpopular. His approval ratings have been particularly poor, having not surpassed a single president since Richard Nixon in the ’70s.

With Trump as the inspiration for many political outsiders to dive into politics, I would have predicted that the anticipation of celebrities as president would be at an all-time low, but that prediction is incredibly wrong. Calls for Oprah, The Rock, and Kanye West are far from rare, and Oprah is being considered a serious candidate. If you’d have asked me about Oprah as president two years back, I would’ve thought that was a great idea: she’s incredibly popular, well-liked, and an actual self-made billionaire. With that being said, I would’ve also thought the exact same thing about Trump.

Nowadays? Not so much.

GOP consultant Ana Navarrohe said, “I don’t know how much [Oprah] knows about foreign policy or some domestic policy issues.” Regardless of how previous outsiders have performed on a smaller scale, or how Trump has performed as a president, too many people still demand unqualified celebrities as president.

If there’s anything that this current presidency has served as, it’s a lesson. We should realize that the mistakes that Trump has made have an easy solution: don’t elect candidates as president who have no experience.