The Spectatortocracy

By William Truban

Insanity prevails. These words underscore the current political environment. The 2016 election was less than a year and a half ago and already people are talking about 2020, with the White House discussing President Donald Trump’s reelection more than they should at this stage.

However, Trump has now set the stage for calamity as he proved one did not have to be a professional politician, an expert, or even a coherent speaker to win the presidency.

Now rumors run amok and a score of celebrities from Mark Cuban to Mark Zuckerberg have voiced their interest in running for president. However, none of them has proven more prominent a possibility than Oprah Winfrey.

After her smash speech at the Golden Globes on Sunday, mounting support has developed for Oprah to run for President. NBC led the way with a now-deleted tweet that extolled their support for her as the future president.

However, the support did not stop there. Intellectuals, like Bill Kristol, have voiced backing for her candidacy. Numerous political operatives have made public overtures for her to contact them so they can start laying the groundwork for a 2020 election. Broadcast media, Internet sites, and newspapers have already indulged in speculation and some have even declared Oprah to be the anti-Trump. The logic is that, as a celebrity of monumental status, Oprah can rally black and female voters, countering the exhibitionist personality of Trump with an exhibitionist personality of her own.

This speculation, not to mention if Oprah were to actually declare her candidacy for president, is nothing short of a travesty. Our nation has reached the point where one good speech by a celebrity is apparently enough to put them on the road to political power. The fact that there is a wave of support coming from elements of the Democratic Party and Republican Never-Trumpers shows these elements have learned absolutely nothing from the election and Trump’s presidency. Who cares if Oprah could beat Donald Trump in the 2020 election? She is still a dilettante.

The United States proved in the last election cycle that substance is not the guiding light in public affairs, but that exhibition and spectacle are. What else could be seen as defining this last year more than exhibition and spectacle?

Our nation has become a “spectator-tocracy.” Our democracy has become more akin to a reality TV show that we can watch than a political process we can and should engage in. It is only natural that in response to the amateur-ish and churlish behavior of our president that some would turn to another celebrity to counter what has been done, in essence, fighting fire with fire.

Yet, it is this very ineptitude that is undermining the power of our government on both the domestic and international stages. It is vital that we move away from this celebrity-centric focus in our politics, away from the cake and circuses that have plagued us to no end.

The simple truth is no celebrity should ever run for office. Public service is antithetical to the role of the celebrity. The purpose of the public servant is to toil away behind closed doors, operate in relative secrecy, and decide strategically for the good of many.

No individual whose life is built on celebrity status can afford to operate outside of attention, drama, public scrutiny, and relative transparency. Individuals like Tom Steyer, Oprah Winfrey, Mark Zuckerberg, Mark Cuban, and Dwayne Johnson may all be lovely people with the best of intentions, but those intentions mean nothing when the highest office in the land is at stake.

If we do not actively return to professionalism to politics, then we risk this spectator-tocracy becoming a permanent state of affairs.

About William Truban 1 Article
William Truban is a recent graduate of the University of Virginia, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy and focused on foreign policy. He is currently an administrative and research assistant at a local law firm in his hometown of Winchester, Virginia.