It’d be crazy, of course, for a high-profile figure from the world of entertainment to suddenly and successfully transition into politics, and even crazier for them to reach the highest offices, wouldn’t it? No, actually, unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 40 years. Entertainers have a better chance than anyone at achieving success in politics, American politics especially. Joining a long-list of esteemed (and not-so esteemed) entertainers could be Matthew McConaughey, one of America’s most iconic actors of the past few decades, who has voiced the possibility of a bid for governor of Texas in earnest. Could the star of Dallas Buyers Club (2013) and the scene-stealer of The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) make it in today’s hyper-partisan political world?
It’d be tempting to think so, but there are more difficulties than meets the eye.
Alright, Alright, Alright
It seemed inconceivable that Ronald Reagan, a former B-lister and cowboy actor, could rise as high as President, until it happened. That incredulity was diminished further still when Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Austrian-born bodybuilder and frequently self-parodying action movie hero, ran successfully for governor in California in 2003. To that extent, it was scarcely surprising when Donald Trump, a former reality TV star and property developer, ran successfully for President in 2016. All of this is to say that Matthew McConaughey wouldn’t be the first high-profile governor of a large American state, and (to be blunt) his election would scarcely be more surreal than Arnold Schwarzenegger’s.
What kind of governor would McConaughey be? He’s a devout Christian, which is a boon in American politics (especially Texas) but doesn’t speak to either party, and he’s taken a divisive stance in the past. In 2017 he called for celebrities and politicians to be constructive with the Trump administration, though he declined to comment on Trump’s 2020 bid, and has criticised the American left-wing in the past for their perceived illiberalism on certain issues. On the other hand, he’s spoken out strongly against the “epidemic” of gun violence in the USA and has criticised actions of the far-right. It makes vague sense, then, that McConaughey has described himself as aggressively centrist, making him difficult to categorise.
An Uphill Battle
Texas inches closer to becoming a true swing state every four years, and in that transitional turmoil Matthew McConaughey might be able to ease into the political sphere seamlessly. But is Texas ready for such a hardened centrist? He’d be potentially following in the footsteps of popular Republican incumbent Greg Abbott, who comfortably won in 2018. Additionally, his liberal stance on gun violence could spell disaster for any election bid, with Texas having one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the Union. It’s hard to imagine him having a place in the Republican Party as governor, considering their support for Abbott and their placement far away from the centre ground of politics. Yet the Democratic Party surely wouldn’t be happy with the prospect of another moderate, high-profile Democrat in the vein of Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin calling out the unified progressive agenda. The real electoral shock would be if McConaughey won as a third-party candidate – something impossible to believe in present-day America.
Matthew McConaughey has every reason to be confident in a bid for Texas governor, but his choice of party and policy will decide his fate for sure, and he’ll be fighting an uphill battle. He might be a movie star, and might be mostly famous for saying “alright” in the most debonair way possible, but hey – that’s never stopped anyone before.
Image: Avda via Wikimedia Commons