The Rock is an Unlikely President, but Could he do a Worse Job than Donald Trump?
Just when we thought Donald Trump’s presidency couldn’t get any worse, it reached a new nadir with this month’s tweet-storm against MSNBC presenters Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski.
For critically reporting on his beleaguered administration, Scarborough was attacked as “Psycho Joe” while Brzezinski’s appearance was subjected to the chauvinist-in-chief’s signature misogyny.
Next in the firing line was CNN. Or the “Fraud News CNN” as Trump renamed them.
He shared a clip from his 2007 appearance at World Wrestling Entertainment’s WrestleMania 23, with his storyline beat-down on owner Vince McMahon having CNN’s logo superimposed over McMahon’s face. It was crafted by a Reddit user who made an antisemitic meme targeting Jewish CNN journalists.
For the encore, the official US presidential account (@POTUS) reposted Trump’s WWE video, meaning that it will be historically archived as government memorandum.
Trump’s bonding at the G-20 with Vladimir Putin - whose critics face state intimidation and mysterious deaths in the worst cases - was a chilling reminder that this “leader of the free world” holds democratic norms in contempt.
Putin noted that Trump, the former reality TV star, is a much different man behind closed doors. No doubt his egotistical resentment of the press is real, but his blustering persona is born out of a deeper psychological warfare.
Trump is not the first US politician to utilise their showbiz skills. Ronald Reagan, known as “Teflon Ron” as he was such an effective orator, started out in Hollywood. Arnold Schwarzenegger became California’s Governator.
In contrast to Reagan, Trump’s approval ratings are historically bad and still plummeting, but his disgracefulness has always been consistent since he launched his presidential bid. Hillary Clinton, though manifestly more qualified, could not overcome Trump’s rhetorical barrage.
Johnson also has a quintessentially American “rags to riches” biography
Would-be leaders should ideally be chosen based on substance and competence. But when considering that personality and a natural ability to connect with voters is an electoral assert, there is one man who is being promoted as an unlikely challenger to Trump (or another Republican nominee) in 2020.
Like Reagan he is a Hollywood star and like Trump he would be a political outsider with experience in the wrestling world.
Dwayne Johnson, known to wrestling fans as The Rock, was the world’s highest-earning actor in 2016. Nicknamed The People’s Champion, in the WWE he became one of the most popular wrestlers in history, before becoming a huge commodity in Hollywood.
Johnson - with his statuesque physique, pearly-white smile and easy charisma - certainly looks and sounds the part. While Trump has become a caricature of a president, it’s easy to imagine Johnson seriously portraying one.
Johnson also has a quintessentially American “rags to riches” biography that parallels with Barack Obama’s.
The son of Ata Mavia of the Samoan American Anoaʻi wrestling dynasty, and Black Canadian wrestler Rocky Johnson, he fell into poverty and gang crime as a young man in Hawaii.
He originally pursued a career in American football, but an injury cut his dreams short and he opted for the family trade instead.
While non-presidential Trump uses social media for abuse and bullying, Johnson has positively used his outreach to recount his struggles with depression and promote mental health awareness. He has a rugged masculinity, but not a fragile one.
Johnson has the ideal personality and backstory, but there are some hitches. We don’t know his political stances on…well, anything. This alongside his absence of political experience might be a something of a disadvantage. Trump also had none, though.
Johnson, if he decided to run, would definitely be an underdog. But there are precedents
Johnson did speak out against Trump’s Muslim ban, defending America’s multicultural inclusiveness. It’s a low bar, but at least Johnson beats Trump on basic human empathy.
Johnson’s philanthropic work with disadvantaged and terminally ill children could also influence his political outlook. He was originally a Republican but has since become an Independent.
Johnson could also accept the scientific facts on climate change and object to Trump’s reckless attempts to repeal Obama’s life-saving healthcare reforms.
Johnson might also respect the intelligence community’s warnings on security issues like Russian cyberattacks instead of dismissing them as fake news.
It’s safer to assume that Johnson’s possible presidential run is merely a publicity stunt. But again, the same was said about Trump, and Johnson insists he is not joking about considering it.
Trump is frequently compared to a wrestling “heel”, a villainous character, while Johnson became a major attraction as a heroic “babyface” - typically underdogs that compete against the stronger villains.
Johnson, if he decided to run, would definitely be an underdog. But there are precedents. Former WWE announcer Jesse Ventura became Governor of Minnesota in an upset victory as a minor party candidate. In Japan, folk hero Antonio Inoki was elected to parliament while still competing in the ring.
The dramatic training of the wrestling arena is perfectly suited for the political one. The US presidency is designed so anyone can step up to represent the nation. An opinion poll even saw Johnson leading Trump as the 2020 Democratic nominee.
Granted, “The Rock for President” will be an absurd idea to many, but American politics has become surreal enough under Trump. It’s hard to imagine a greater mockery of the political process than the one already gripping the White House. Could The People’s Champion really do any worse?
About the author
Jacob Richardson began his career with Disclaimer and writes on culture, politics and society. Politically he is a democratic socialist and Labour Party supporter. His other interests include cinema, psychoanalysis and professional wrestling.
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