For weeks now, rumors have been swirling that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson of professional wrestling fame will be running for president in 2020. Johnson even gave a humorous nod to the gossip by satirically announcing a bid with actor Tom Hanks on “Saturday Night Live.” But, the idea of a President Rock may not be all jokes. A recent Public Policy Polling survey shows him leading Trump in the popular vote for a 2020 matchup, 42 percent to 37 percent.
If his presidential aspirations are real, The Rock may be entering a potentially crowded field, with fellow celebrities Kanye West, Oprah Winfrey, Mark Cuban and Mark Zuckerburg also rumored to be White House hopefuls. Of course, killjoy naysayers have already been discouraging even the mere thought of ridiculing the office of the president any further, laying blame on the current commander-in-chief. Jeremy Gordon breaks down the psychology of the phenomenon in SPIN: “That Trump, a failed businessman and admitted sexual abuser, could pivot off his fame as a bloviating reality star to become the leader of the free world theoretically meant anyone could.”
Well, anyone may be better than a scheming central planner!
For all his faults, Trump’s greatest legacy for limited government may be in discrediting the cult of the presidency. For centuries, the role of commander-in-chief has occupied an almost godlike status in the American mind. Although our country’s legacy of free speech has always given rise to healthy criticism, the office itself is still revered with an almost monarchical respect not seen in other parts of the world.
Jeers are a social norm during the Prime Minister’s questions in the UK. Contrast that to the US, where the last man to interrupt a president during a joint session of Congress (Rep. Joe Wilson, R-SC), was officially admonished. Even during the most trying times of the Obama era, many conservative commentators would call to “respect the office, not the man.”
Fast forward to today, most of President Trump’s campaign promises are either dead-on-arrival in Congress (border wall, adjustment tax) or caught up in court (the travel ban). As Jacob Sullum put it in Reason, “By alienating and alarming so many factions of government, the current president has provided a much-needed corrective, reacquainting people with the value of enforcing constitutional limits regardless of which party or which politician happens to control the White House.”
For all their often dishonest reporting, the mainstream media’s reporting of the administration nevertheless pushes a refreshing skepticism of presidential power after decades of largesse. Meanwhile on the internet, the constant memeification of Trump — even by his supporters — subtly supports a ridiculous image of the president as a ridiculous figurehead in a complex world.
Contrary to what many spoilsport journalists may say, I think these are healthy developments. Instead of worshipping the president as an infallible being, the public is starting to wake up to the harsh reality of government. That is, politicians are not angels, but mere mortals like us all.