The advantages celebrities have on the campaign trail are numerous. When celebrities like Walker and Jenner enter the political fray, their experience is drastically different from that of traditional politicians. Media coverage of their candidacy is automatic, vast and tends to be positive in tone — they gain public prominence as heroes and relatable figures, coming from industries that monetize popularity.
Jenner, for example, has high name recognition and generates lots of public interest. More than 64% of survey respondents correctly identified her in an open-ended response question in my research, and a standard Google search for “Caitlyn Jenner” on Friday yielded 15.3 million results. By contrast, a Google search for Jenner’s fellow Republican gubernatorial candidate and two-term San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer produces less than 400,000 results. Possible Georgia Senate hopeful, and former NFL player, Herschel Walker also eclipses sitting Sen. Raphael Warnock (his prospective opponent) in this regard, with 7.5 million results to Warnock’s 2.7 million, even though Walker has not officially jumped into the race.
This is a political environment in which celebrity candidates thrive.
Of course, the potential success of each celebrity candidate depends on the contours of the race in which they are running, and descriptive statistics that measure things like favorability and electability vary widely among celebrities.
Voters are understandably tempted to reject establishment figures in favor of fresh faces who endearingly and convincingly communicate our everyday needs and priorities amid once-in-a-generation social and economic challenges — particularly when politicians have failed to rise to the occasion. But celebrities are neither remedies to, nor immune from, the smoke-filled rooms and political machines of the past. Americans deserve government that takes governing seriously.