Matthew McConaughey for governor?
Should Matthew McConaughey choose to run for governor of Texas next year, many will look back to the interview he gave on CBS This Morning this week where he discreetly acknowledged his obvious advantages should he seek public office.
"I'm giving it consideration," the actor explained while promoting "We're Texas," a virtual benefit concert to help Texans devastated by the massive winter storm in February that left millions with electricity, and in some parts of the state, without running water. "I would be a fool not to. It's a very honorable thing to consider, you know, what that position would mean. What would it be for me, what would it mean for the people of Texas," he added.
McConaughey concluded his tease with, "As I've said before and I'll say again now, I have to decide for me what is my category where I can be most useful in life from here?"
Though the Texas native is a novice in politics, being a movie star teaches you to sidestep questions you don't want to answer. In this case, it was whether he would also consider running against Senator Ted Cruz. Charming as McConaughey often is in interviews and in films (I love The Wedding Planner), I winced a bit when he dismissed rightful criticism of Cruz flying to Cancún while Texans like me froze without power and running water as the kind of content covered in the "Page Six" gossip column. But perhaps that has something to do with this being the third time in six months McConaughey has publicly expressed a potential interest in jumping into Texas politics and making sure he doesn't alienate any potential voters just yet.
On a recent episode of the Houston-based podcast, "The Balanced Voice," he explained to host Rania Mankarious: "I do think I have some things to teach and share, and what is my role. What's my category in my next chapter of life that I'm going into?" After Mankarious mentioned the governorship, McConaughey answered, "It's a true consideration."
Last November, McConaughey told Hugh Hewitt in a separate podcast interview: "I don't know. I mean, that wouldn't be up to me. It would be up to the people more than it would me. I would say this: Look, politics seems to be a broken business to me right now. And when politics redefines its purpose, I could be a hell of a lot more interested."
If that sounds familiar, you heard something similar last Friday, when he told Al Roker on Today: "Something I'm personally working on is what is my position of most use in a leadership role?"
This is the rhetoric of a candidate. Give the man the right kind of slogan and who knows. Not that I am necessarily celebrating another celebrity jumping into politics for no other reason than they can. Writing for CNN, James Moore said of the actor's chatter: "McConaughey is exactly what the state does not need — someone with great talent in his chosen profession and no known experience in public office or politics."
I agree, but I also believe in living in the world that exists before you get to the one you desire. Much as I would like to believe that in the post-President Trump era, the American public will think long and hard about any future celebrities who want to run for political office, I am not holding my breath. In fact, I'm sure there will be another celebrity president in my lifetime.
Last month, The Rock told USA Today: "I would consider a presidential run in the future if that's what the people wanted. Truly I mean that, and I'm not flippant in any way with my answer."
I don't mean this in a flippant way either: He probably could run and be competitive based on his celebrity and the popularity of his new show Young Rock. I'm not the only person to notice either. This is the country that almost lost itself to its first autocratic president: a racist game show host. Even before him, there was Ronald Reagan, a template for how to transform celebrity into political power.
Yes, I would love for more Americans to disinvest from celebrity worship and to look away from Fox News and Facebook when making political considerations.
In the case of Texas specifically, while I would rather hear names like Beto O'Rourke, Julián Castro, or Joaquin Castro, if McConaughey found his way into the race I would take him seriously for no other reason than he has already proven to care more about Texans than the sitting governor. Not only did Greg Abbott go on Fox News to troll on the first night he presided over a failed state as its electrical grid collapsed and his constituents suffered, he followed that up by lifting the state's mask mandate as if the coronavirus has magically gone away.
The power of politicians like Abbott and Cruz in Texas is rooted in gerrymandering and voter suppression, and although the power of celebrity alone wouldn't be enough to overcome such challenges, it might help. This is assuming McConaughey runs as a Democrat; he seems to lean right, but in Texas terms, McConaughey does not sound racist or unhinged in the way that, say, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick does. Or as dumb as former governor Rick Perry, who foolishly claimed Texans would happily forgo power again out of spite for federal regulation. In the CBS This Morning interview, McConaughey also said he was "dumbfounded" by Abbott's decision to lift the mask mandate.
McConaughey's celebrity alone will not make him governor, but he's right that he would be a fool not to consider. He's rich, he's white, he's famous, and will net the attention only a celebrity (or a politician who becomes one) can. We don't have to like it; I don't, but I won't deny the leg up he has.
McConaughey appears sincere in wanting to help Texas get better — and the only way for that to happen is for the state to get better leadership. Whether or not that's him is unclear, but in the meanwhile, if he really wants to advocate on behalf of Texans, he would line up behind voting rights. Everyone should get a say in choosing the next governor: movie star or otherwise.