Are All Bets Off When It Comes To Who Runs For Office?

Jake Neher/WDET

Marc Kruman

A few years ago, the thought of reality TV star and businessman Donald Trump running for and winning a presidential race seemed absurd. But the appetite for someone outside of the political realm was so big in November 2016 that it has become possible.

The traditional path to high office usually involves working your way up the ladder - getting elected to local office and waiting in the wings for opportunities to come up. But has that changed? Can anybody run for office now? 

Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson speaks with Marc Kruman, American history professor and director of the Center for the Study of Citizenship at Wayne State University

Kruman says that norms have existed for characters such as presidents in the past, and there have been disruptors to these norms, such as former President Andrew Jackson. Jackson came into the presidency without the traditional qualifications of the time and began to change the norms of public service. 


But what about the new pattern of a celebrity using his or her fame to reach political heights?


Kruman says, in Italy, actors and comedians have run for and won political office. This is in part due to social media, which has allowed celebrities to go around using traditional media.


But, traditional media also played a role in having a celebrity such as Trump elected.


The media’s discussion of him (Trump) clearly out-paced the attention given to the many rivals,” said Kruman. 


Henderson also speaks with Adrian Hemond, CEO at Grassroots Midwest, a political and bipartisan consulting firm in Lansing.


Hemond says that recently, the political parties have not done a great job connecting with a broad base of voters. Due to this, celebrities such as Trump are given an opportunity.   


Certainly someone capturing the presidency with no political experience at all is pretty unique,” Hemond said. ”But we’ve had celebrity candidates before - Sen. Al Franken in Minnesota, Governor Schwarzenegger… certainly, President Reagan when he ran for governor of California… One thing that you’ll notice about all those names I just mentioned is that they are very wealthy people.” 


Hemond continues that Trump is a master at marketing and has even made a career out of it. During the election, Trump was able to force the media cover what he was doing. 


Click on the audio player above to hear the full conversation. 

Image credit: Jake Neher/WDET

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