You might know him as the Terminator or Conan the Barbarian, but on this day in 2003, California elected him as their governor.
Arnold Schwarzenegger served as the 38th governor of California from 2003 until 2011. Though he was the youngest ever Mr. Universe, according to the National Governors Association, the only actual governmental position Scwarzenegger had held previously was Chair of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports for President George H. W. Bush.
According to the New York Times, Schwarzenegger was elected in a special recall election as California faced a fiscal crisis. Nearly every article regarding his election focused on one thing— Schwarenegger’s history as an action movie star and bodybuilder. Celebrities in politics is not a new idea-Ronald Reagan is a famous example-but with the advent of social media and yet another celebrity president, the issue is at the forefront of American politics- even if we don’t realize it.
Now, it’s completely impossible to talk about the impact of celebrities on politics without talking about today’s most prominent example-President Donald Trump. The similarities between Trump and Scwarzenegger are hard to miss, a celebrity with a well-known and often-imitated voice wins an odd election as a Republican with almost no political experience. However, celebrity impact on politics is bigger than just the president.
Last year World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) wrestler Kane, also known as Glenn Jacobs, ran for mayor of Knox County, TN. Like Trump and Schwarzenegger, Jacobs won as a Republican and is the current mayor of Knox County. His website, jacobsformayor.com, mentions repeatedly how the WWE shaped his life and how his wrestling experience make him the perfect candidate.
It’s impossible to tell if Jacobs’ celebrity is what brought him to the Knox County City County Building, but plenty of other celebrities have used their positions of influence to try to promote the causes they believe in. Take Marvel star Chris Evans. As of Sept. 30, his three most recent tweets are of a political nature, and Evans is not alone.
Model and author Chrissy Teigen uses her Twitter similarly and has come under fire from the president himself for it. According to the New York Times, Teigen has long been a critic of Trump and was blocked from viewing his account in 2017. Most recently, Trump referred to Teigen as John Legend’s “filthy mouthed wife,” to which she responded with “vulgarities.”
Legend and Teigen are not the only ones. According to CNN.com, Ellen DeGeneres, Jennifer Aniston, Ryan Reynolds and more have donated to 2020 Democratic campaigns. Likewise, Queer Eye star Jonathan Van Ness has publicly endorsed Elizabeth Warren online, and he is not alone. Social media has become a powerful tool for celebrities to exercise more political clout then ever before.
Celebrities have undeniable, world-changing power. It’s vital that as residents of the United States, we are informed voters. As more of us become able to vote in the coming years, it’s up to us to put aside our dangerous idol worship of actors, singers and others to vote based on the issues. As much as we may respect these people and enjoy their work, it is important to remember that only you can make your opinion, and someone’s fame is not the right reason to vote one way or another.