Dear Oprah, Dwayne, Mark, and other celebrities,
I know you’re thinking about it. Donald Trump proved that it was possible for a celebrity with no political experience to become President and now you’re imagining yourself in the White House. You think, “I’m smarter/more decent/less repulsive than that guy,” and you’re right.
You’re intelligent, hard-working, and have people’s best interests at heart. Millions of Americans like you and you could actually win. And you would definitely be a better President than Donald Trump.
But just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. And just because you’re better than the last terrible employee doesn’t mean you’re the right person for the job. None of you should be President in 2020 and here are a few of the many reasons why.
Good ideas are not enough.
You undoubtedly have some great ideas for this country that would improve people’s lives. But ideas are the easy part. Every politician, professor, and podcaster has them. The question is not whether you have good ideas, but if you can make those ideas a reality. As President, that means getting legislation through Congress or issuing executive orders to alter the course of federal bureaucracies — both of which you don’t know how to do.
Consider this: in 2010 Democrats controlled Congress and the White House, and they still could not pass universal health care — a “good idea” that had been on the radar for decades. Today Republicans control all three branches of government and they have not been able to repeal the Affordable Care Act, something they campaigned on for 7 years. If skilled legislators who understand the political landscape and have personal relationships with the major players cannot enact their “good ideas,” you won’t be able to either. In fact, you’ll be less successful, like Trump, who has been unable to make good on most of his major campaign promises.
Surrounding yourself with experts is not enough. The President must be an expert too.
But, as the Rock said, “could I surround myself with really brilliant people to help me make decisions?” Couldn’t my Congressional allies handle the legislation and my lawyers handle the executive orders? Couldn’t a smart person surrounded by experts be the best candidate for the job? And the answer is no, you can’t, because it’s not enough be surrounded by knowledgeable people; you actually have to be one yourself. Take it from someone who used to think like you.
In 2014 I was an attorney who decided to throw the world’s first major Vegan Oktoberfest event in Los Angeles. I had never produced an event before, let alone one so large and expensive. But I thought that because I was smart enough to rely on others with more knowledge and expertise, I could pull it off as well as any experienced producer, kind of like you think you can pull off the presidency. But I couldn’t.
Every expert I consulted with told me our event’s capacity was around 4,000 people. But soon after the event started it became clear that all the experts―every single one of them ― was wrong. The venue could barely fit 2,000 people. Our guests were justifiably upset about the overcrowded event. And our profits disappeared in the form of refunds. Being a smart person surrounded by experts did not lead to the right decision.
What I learned the hard way was that when you’re the decision maker, it’s not enough to be able to listen to experts. You must be an expert yourself. You need to be able to ask the right questions, tell the difference between competing expert opinions, or know enough to go in a completely different direction when necessary. It’s not enough for the President to be a good student. They need to be able to teach the class.
The presidency really matters.
Though throwing a lackluster event felt terrible, at least I could take solace in the fact that I hadn’t done any real, lasting harm. But when you screw up as President, you do real damage. Your executive orders might put us on track for another financial collapse. If you follow bad advice from cabinet advisors and military leaders, you can cost American soldiers their lives and lower our nation’s standing across the globe.
Many of you seem to think, as Mark has said, that the prospect of becoming President is a “fun idea to toss around,” as if running the country might be an interesting project for you and that we humble Americans would be lucky to be a part of your latest venture. But there’s nothing fun about having an incompetent boss who is in way over their head.
When American lives are on the line, we need a leader who has spent thousands of hours preparing to make foreign policy decisions, not an amateur who has spent that time maintaining their physique. If a few more votes are needed to pass critical legislation, we need a President who has spent years building the skills and coalitions necessary to secure those votes, not a talk show host who has spent years interviewing celebrities.
We already have plenty of qualified people ― governors, Senators, and other prominent politicians ― who have been learning the issues and the process while you’ve been entertaining people. And real responsibility belongs in the hands of people who are truly ready for it.
So while it’s commendable that you have some interest in public service, if you really care about the public you won’t run for President in 2020. Instead, you’ll use your star power to campaign for a candidate who has the experience you don’t and knows the details you haven’t learned yet. Your fame may make it possible for you to become President, but the best way you can help this country is by giving Americans a sobering reminder that no celebrity is qualified for that job.