Just a few weeks ago, I was explaining to someone who missed the Attitude Era why The People’s Elbow is a great finishing move. It is the rising action that begins the moment when Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson gathers his stance with that slight kick, to the moment when he pauses a couple steps after that second bounce off of the ropes, to the climax when the elbow hits and the crowd roars. The move is an entire story by itself, made out of a souped-up elbow drop.
Clearly, I have been a fan of The Rock for a long time and yet I still believe the fact that data is being gathered about his chances at being elected President of the United States is another sign of a serious problem in this country.
Johnson spoke about this on the debut episode of the new podcast What Now with Trevor Noah. Midway through the episode, Noah asked him about a poll in which 46 percent of respondents responded that they would vote for him as president. Johnson told him that the politicians have taken that data seriously.
“At the end of the year in 2022, I got a visit from the parties asking me if I was gonna run and if I could run,” Johnson said on the podcast. “It was a big deal, and it came out of the blue. And it was one after the other, and they brought up that poll. They also brought up their own deep-dive research and data.”
That data showed that the poll is no aberration, and he could be elected President of the United States.
I get why people would vote for him. He is Bizzaro Donald Trump. People respond to Johnson’s strength and charisma, but also his message of encouragement and decency. He makes people feel good, but also powerful.
Trump does the same thing with his charisma and the association of his name with strength, because it has become synonymous with wealth throughout decades of pop culture. His message is that he is all powerful and anyone who disagrees with him is a liar. A message that resonates because there is always room in this world for the racism that comes from his hate speech towards immigrants, and his love letters to white supremacists.
Obviously, Johnson would not be as crass or oafish as Trump, but he, or Stephen A. Smith, or any other celebrity as president, does not fix our nation’s desire to only consume dessert.
The trusted news personalities of my youth were Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings, and Ted Koppel. A Gallup poll from earlier this year asked respondents,“about one public individual you watch or follow the most to get information.” Tucker Carlson narrowly edged out MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, 113-107. Far behind them were Noah and Fox News’ Sean Hannity who were tied at 57. NBC News’ Lester Holt trailed those two at 55.
I am old enough to remember NBC News thrusting Brokaw onto televisions during the NBA Finals as A.C. Cowlings drove double-homicide suspect O.J. Simpson in a Ford Bronco down a Los Angeles highway in a live, slow-speed police chase. Just before my time was Koppel putting MLB racism in front of America’s face with his takedown of Al Campanis for some abhorrent comments about the intelligence of Black people.
These were salacious moments, but presented reasonably by people with decades of experience delivering information people needed — and not always wanted — to hear. For many years, when sports news became the news of the day, Bob Ley would take the helm at the Sportscenter desk and guide viewers through the chop of shock and to the shore of basic understanding.
As much as we may love peach cobbler and apple pie, dinner needs to be the priority. Presidents express far more ideology than an unbiased news anchor, but they at least need to be a symbolic anchor for the country. I wish this country had better options than two octogenarian white men for President, but I would be much less troubled if one of them wasn’t a man who speaks with about as much caution as The Joker approaches life in The Dark Knight.
The Rock is younger and kinder than Trump. He even admitted on Instagram that he understood why people were critical of him and Oprah Winfrey asking for donations for the victims of Maui fires. The masses don’t want to be asked for money by people with more money than them. The government already does this regularly.
But the fact that people in politics are spending time researching data about Johnson’s electability, and presenting it to him, is more evidence that our priorities are broken when it comes to leadership. Johnson is the ideal leader for his family and businesses, but he spent his young adult years trying to be a professional football player, and then living the grind on the road of a professional wrestler. These days, as a pop-culture icon at 51, nothing in his professional experience points towards being the head of one of the three branches of the United States government.
People in America, and all over the world, are scared, tired and hungry. The blame for that reality can, and should, be placed on the people who have been in charge to this point. Dissatisfaction with the status quo is fine, but a celebrity soothing you with hate speech or talk of inner peace is not the way to success. Leading with empathy is important, but competency and vision are vital.
Johnson said on Noah’s podcast that he is not interested in running for president at the moment because he dislikes a lot about politics, but mainly because he has young children. They need him now, and we need to think a little harder about our personal thoughts on what qualifies a person to hold the highest office in our government. There needs to be a more substantial buildup than the anticipation of 20,000 fans as The Rock bounces through the ring before dropping an elbow onto someone’s gut.
A good place to start is changing what we look for in government leadership, and those already in those positions not spending hours compiling data on why the symbolic “People’s Champion,” should actually be in charge of the people.