Volume 93, Issue 61

Wednesday, January 19, 2000


Editorial Board 1999-2000

A Body politic

Editorial Cartoon

A Body politic

Sir Winston Churchill was once quoted as saying, "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." Although this wise old Brit may have been right, recent developments suggest democracy may be taking a dramatic turn for the worse.

Perhaps we should blame the Kennedy family, or maybe it all started with Ronald Reagan or Sonny Bono. The exact birth of the "political leader as celebrity and celebrity as political leader" theory may be difficult to pin-point, but it is clear the spawn of the Kennedys, Reagans and Bonos is truly an ugly and unruly child.

The offspring off this culture have given us Governor Jesse Ventura, presidential candidate Donald Trump, gubernatorial candidate Ric "Nature Boy" Flair and near-presidential candidates Warren Beatty and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The once elite world of politics has become the domain of actors, wrestlers and other entertainers. Celebrity has become a qualification for national leadership.

While this could be interpreted as a manifestation of the democratic ideal that anyone can run for office and the majority vote will rule, it holds some frightening ramifications.

The idea that fame and popularity can launch you into public office is a scary proposition. Virtues such as intelligence, experience and a care for the greater good have been replaced by attention-seeking, narcissism and self-indulgence as requirements for the most important jobs in the democratic world.

It is perfectly plausible that these entertainers-turned-politicians have the virtues and characteristics leadership positions require. However, for the vast majority of these pseudo-politicians, the fact that their faces are on the cover of various gossips rags seems to make them think they are more than ready to dictate foreign policy.

Canadians may ignore this trend as a purely American idea, but our neighbour to the South is the most powerful nation in the world and quite often influences political bodies in our native land. Imagine for a second, Prime Minister Don Cherry or the right honourable Governor General Madame Celine Dion. Get the point?

This new celebrity-politics may make for interesting television and it may even attract more people to vote, but at what cost? Do we want presidents chatting it up with Rosie O'Donnell rather than tending to health care reform or homelessness? This may not be the present case, but if the growing push for politicians who can sing and dance continues, we could be headed for a cinematic world, minus the happy ending.

Democracy may be the lesser of all evils, but if current trends proceed, we may be wishing for days gone by, when the King and Queen ruled our land and not Prime Minister Alan Thicke, or the Former Game Show Hosts of Canada party.

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