Is Donald Trump a Test of Our Democracy?

When Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the U.S. Presidential race, I didn't take it seriously, thinking it was just another publicity stunt. Seeing how he's captured the tabloid headlines with his ridiculous statements, I still think he's acting more like a reality television star than the potential leader of the free world. Yet, he's leading in the polls. Sure, it's very early, and with what seems like a billion other major Republicans running for the nomination (compared to only a handful of Democrats), Trump's lead is small and fragile. He'll fall down to Earth, eventually, but the more we legitimize this pretender (or "clown" as the Daily News dubbed him on its front page), the more we run the risk that he might actually gain more attention and possibly do well in the primaries when it counts.

As much as we joke about the incompetence of career politicians, and as much as we often have valid serious critiques about their agenda and special interests, we should seek qualified contenders to become our representatives and leaders.  I have no problem with a large field of choices -- the more people running for office, the better! -- it allows us to compare ideas and hopefully choose the better option. Many times, however, name recognition wins out, which is why incumbents sometimes have an unfair advantage in an election. Is it any wonder that the top candidates in the polls were Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton, despite their baggage?  People are drawn to the familiar, even if that attraction is not for the best.

An example of this is when Andrew Weiner ran again for Mayor in New York City, despite his embarrassing Twitter scandal -- I was stunned at how quickly people seemed willing to forgive and forget his lies and poor judgement. Yes, we are a culture of second chances, but I wasn't ready to trust him again, and he proved me right with yet another scandal. "Carlos Danger" almost became the head of the greatest city in the world.  Does the fact that voters eventually rejected him prove the power of our democracy? Or does the fact that he even had a chance despite his flaws, and only imploded because of his own oversized weaknesses, prove how dangerous the power of celebrity (especially the notorious kind) can be when it enters the world of politics?

Insults and jokes can be "ratings grabbers" for shock jocks. Controversy can spark viewership online. In the "real world" of government, one would hope that we still stick to some standards of civility. While a sense of honesty and genuineness is welcome, stupid and hateful statements are never attractive and should not be supported. We should strive to elect intelligent statesmen (or stateswomen), not bullies or comedians.

Charismatic personalities can charm us into disaster. Dictators have shown that the power of the image can supersede logical substance and good judgment.

Movie stars and television personalities should not be barred from seeking political office. They should just be held to the same expectations as others. While they might be able to entertain and amuse us more, can they lead us and our nation?


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