Before we start, let’s get one thing straight: I love Oprah. I am a big Oprah fan. I’ve watched her show, listened to her podcasts, joined her book club. I’m all about Super Soul Sunday and Dr. Phil and the OWN network. I think Oprah is an enlightened, kind, and intelligent individual. But I don’t think she should run for president, simply because she has no experience.
I know “experience” seems like an outdated concept these days. When it comes to presidential candidates, it’s more like an added bonus instead of a requirement. Call me old fashioned, but I think the president of the United States should have some previous experience in government.
This isn’t about Oprah or any other celebrity. It’s about our newfound despise of “career politicians”.
Career politicians is a phrase that came up a lot in the last presidential election, primarily to describe Hillary Clinton. Suddenly, experience became synonymous with corrupt or out of touch. And to a certain extent, I understand. I get why people are suspicious of politicians. I know that there has been corruption on all sides. I understand the appeal of a fresh set of eyes and a new perspective. But I think it’s foolish to reject everyone in an entire industry, especially when those in that industry are the best qualified to get us out of this mess.
Here’s the deal: if my toilet breaks, I’m calling a plumber. I’m not calling a guy who has recently decided to take up plumbing because he thinks he has some valuable insight. I’m calling the dude who has been elbow deep in toilets for the past 30 years, the man (or woman!) who is intimately familiar with pipes and water lines and all things plumbing related. Simply put, I want a career plumber.
I don’t want Oprah Winfrey or The Rock or Will Smith to fix my toilet because they’ve done successful interviews about pipes. I want a through and through, true blue plumber.
Because plumbing is a skill. And so is politics. It’s not something that just anyone can do. It’s not a job you can pick up in a day. And it’s certainly not a job you should learn by doing.
Yes, celebrities tend to be well spoken and articulate – traits that help make a successful politician. They are used to being in the public eye and maybe even have some experience advocating for certain causes. They might have attended campaign rallies or voiced support for politicians in the past. And they certainly hold a certain amount of power and influence over the public.
But… they are not politicians. They didn’t study politics. They’re not qualified to run a county or city or state, let alone a country. They are probably not well versed in economics and foreign policies and social issues and the inner workings of Washington. They don’t have connections in the industry, they’ve never been mentored, they’ve never even been an intern. It’s unlikely they’ve ever sat in a meeting about military strategy or attended a Senate hearing or had to make a swing vote on behalf of their constituents. They probably couldn’t tell you where Qatar is or what the D’Hondt method means or explain the history of the Dodd-Frank Act.
They don’t have the experience, the skills, or the knowledge because they’ve never done this job before. They’ve never done anything remotely close. They can’t fix this country because they are not politicians, the same way they can’t fix my toilet because they’re not plumbers.
Celebrities are important. Their voices and platforms matter so much right now. We need them to speak up against injustice, to support certain legislature, to lend a voice to those who don’t have one. We need them to be advocates. We don’t necessarily need them to be decision makers.
It’s tempting to think Oprah will be the one to save us. We want our leaders to be charming and personable and passionate. But those are not the most important things. The most important thing is that the next leader of this country be ethical and kind and open minded and incredibly knowledgeable about the tasks at hand. It’s one thing to know what needs to be done. It takes an entirely different skill set to be the one who orchestrates how we get there.
Let’s not vote for the flashy celebrity in 2020. Let’s not think the only way out of this mess is to follow the loudest, shiniest star. Instead, let’s support someone who truly has the solutions. Who knows how to get us from Point A to Point B. Who is smart and well versed and experienced in the system we are currently stuck in. Let’s find someone who knows what we’re working with, and who can lead us to a better place. Even if that person lacks charm and stage presence. Even if they’re kind of boring and nerdy and awkward. Even if they’re a career politician. Let’s support that person.
Because this country is in trouble. And we need someone who knows what they’re doing.
Jillian is part of the Contributing Writer Network at Thirty on Tap. To apply to become a Contributing Writer, please click here.