Act Four: When Dwayne Johnson is president, feel free to blame me (or give me credit)

Life is weird.
Act Four
Alyssa Rosenberg on culture and politics
Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron in “Baywatch.” (Frank Masi/SMPSP via Paramount Pictures) It was weird enough last year when the former professional wrestler and world-famous actor Dwayne Johnson Instagrammed a lighthearted piece I’d written about his possible path to the presidency. It got even odder this week when GQ published a fascinating profile of Johnson by the inimitable Caity Weaver, in which that column became part of the narrative in which Johnson started taking the prospect of public office more seriously. So I guess if President Johnson is inaugurated in early 2021 or 2025 or whenever, the first line in my eventual obituary will be assured. Lest you think I’m taking this too seriously, please rest assured that I’m amused by this and not assuming that I’ve become a president-maker. But if celebrity candidates are going to become a regular feature of American politics, I do think folks on both sides of the aisle need to start planning to get them substantive policy advice, smart advisers and help sorting out their positions. Donald Trump’s challenge to traditional Republican orthodoxies and the party alignment in American politics was largely the result of carelessness and chaos. But that doesn’t mean someone such as Johnson, who is registered as an independent, couldn’t pursue some of these ideas in a more considered, deliberate way. And in this unsettled era, it’s also worthwhile to make sure that politically-engaged celebrities get advice that will keep them far away from damaging conspiracy theories and discredited ideas. At a moment when science is under threat, for example, it’s a shame to see prominent, articulate people espousing discredited anti-vaccine nonsense. For the integrity of our public discourse and the sake of our national unity, both progressives and conservatives need to avoid the sort of conspiratorial thinking and ugly rhetoric that dominated Trump’s celebrity campaign for the presidency. So if Johnson is talking about running for office in public, I hope he’s shopping for policy wonks in private. It might not take more than an astronomically high Q score to win the presidency. But it definitely takes more than popularity to succeed in the office.
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