In the midst of the surprising rise of the Donald Trump campaign, it seems that America has finally blurred the lines between celebrities and politicians. However, in the past, something like this would be far less likely…kind of. OK, not exactly. In fact, it seems that Americans have pretty much always entertained celebrities who wish to transition into politics. Indeed, quite a few have managed to make a successful transition. So, should it come as any surprise that Trump is the leading Republican candidate? Yes!
Our infatuation with random, often unqualified celebrities has never been quite this bad. Sure, we’ve let the occasional straggler become mayor, or maybe even governor, but POTUS?! Look, we’ve certainly given power to potentially undeserving entertainers in the past, but never been on this level. Personal feelings on Trump aside, a man with virtually zero political experience is poised to become the 45th POTUS of the United States. (And to think, people were saying Obama was under-qualified!) So, apparently, the level of experience for even the leader of the free world has taken a backseat to this glorified popularity contest. Officially stuck between a Barack and a hard place, the results of the next election look dismal, at best. Nevertheless, for a few laughs, check out the following closer look at 15 unlikely celebrities who actually ran for office.
15. Wyclef Jean
So, for those of you who missed it, here’s a quick recap. Following the unfortunately massive tragedy of the Haiti quake of 2010, Wyclef Jean stepped up as a leader to his former nation by providing aid and other assistance to millions of displaced Haitians. Perhaps, it was merely a natural transition of events that led to Jean making his bid as the President of Haiti. A commendable notion, Jean seemed to have great intentions for helping the people of Haiti recover from the massive disaster and given his large amounts of resources and his impressive network of connections, he could have potentially done great things for the people of Haiti. Nevertheless, this was one of the most misguided steps of his career. As it turns out, he really just got the residents of Haiti all excited for nothing. Given that he is no longer a resident of the nation, Jean learned that he is ineligible to become Haiti’s commander-in-chief. Well, who’d have thunk?
14. Ronald Reagan
A bit of a shocker in reverse, if you were born after 1960, you may not be aware that former the POTUS and super conservative, Ronald Reagan was a celebrity before he became POTUS. However, unlike the present republican hopeful, Donald Trump, Reagan actually did have a history in politics and even took a break from his acting career to serve in the military! Impressive! Nevertheless, he goes down in history as one of the most polarizing POTUS‘ to date. On the one hand, he reduced unemployment rates, survived an assassination attempt, and made some historic tax cuts. However, on the other hand, he raised national debt drastically, killed a slew of small business, and was said to be a bit (or extremely) racist. Either way, it seems that, unlike many others, his career in entertainment actually served as the foundation that propelled him into greatness in the political field.
13. Jerry Springer
If you haven’t followed his career, odds are, you can’t imagine Jerry Springer actually solving more problems than he creates. Nevertheless, at one point, that seemed to be his goal. After working a job in a law firm, it seems Springer was determined to make a difference in the world. Starting a campaign to lower the voting age in Ohio from 21 to 18, Springer got his first taste of political success early in his career. Nevertheless, it seems he attempted to put the cart before the horse as his bid for congress, wasn’t as successful. Although he narrowly lost to his opponent, it seems that he opted to graciously bow out of the game of politics and instead chose to play Ringmaster to people getting beaten on TV. Moreover, it is also interesting to point out that Springer has sense appeared on a number of television shows and even created his own feature film.
12. Howard Stern
You read that right, the well-known shock jock, Howard Stern, managed to shock the world once again in 1994 when he tried to become the governor of New York. In a career and campaign eerily similar to Donald Trump, clearly Stern had also already offended his fair share of individuals, groups, cultures, and religions. Far from a well-liked figure, much like Trump, many were confused as to why he would decide to go into politics after creating controversy and outrage amongst so many demographics. In addition to that, Stern also had no experience in the political realm. Moreover, his campaign announcement also seemingly came out of nowhere causing many to laugh it off initially. At any rate, his platform also included relatively radical yet altogether unimpressive initiatives such as passing the death penalty and forcing road crews to work at night only. Either way, his campaign was a flop and instead he remained one of the top villains of radio.
11. Sean Duffy
You may or may not remember this reality show star, but Sean Duffy earned his claim to fame via MTV’s The Real World: Boston. However, this comical yet conservative cast member decided to use his newfound fame for the good of the people. Although he also attempted to pursue a career in TV sportscasting, among other things, he eventually settled in politics permanently. After appearing The Real World, Road Rules, and making several other television appearances, this law school graduate was appointed to District Attorney in 2002. Not exactly the stereotypical DA type, although his career in television helped make him more visible, many wondered if he was equipped to hold down such a serious position as that of a DA. Nevertheless, he managed to prove his doubters wrong by playing his role to a tee. Moreover, apparently, the experience helped push him to campaign for congress in Wisconsin. Which actually turned out to be a success!
10. Rosanne Barr
In case you missed it, well-known comedian and actress, Rosanne Barr seriously ran for President of the United States in 2012. However, in her usual comedic tone, she managed to make great points about the state of the nation as well as why voters should give her a shot. Asserting that the country is owned by bankers and operated by dishonest politicians, Barr encouraged voters to give an honest citizen a chance for once. Putting the whole third party theory to the test, Barr cleverly illustrated the fact that this country has no real third party; more of a lesson in voting futility. Either way, Barr ran a fairly successful campaign via the Green Party and focused on initiatives such as cutting military spending, the legalization of marijuana, and much more. Finishing in 6th place with nearly 50,000 votes, if nothing else, Barr proved that the world just may be ready to take a woman POTUS seriously.
9. Clay Aiken
After witnessing his super smooth vocals on American Idol, the last thing you’d expect Clay Aiken to aspire to become is a politician. Nevertheless, it happened! Arguably a celebrity-driven campaign, although Aiken made it clear that his bid for congress was genuine, others didn’t seem so convinced. Although Aiken did seem to have a few good ideas, they took a backseat to his celebrity status. Moreover, participating in, and being beaten on Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice” didn’t do much in terms of establishing him as a fearless leader. Despite his many attempts to shed his persona of a semi-cookie cutter pop star in favor of a more mature, polished politician, it just doesn’t seem that the public was buying it. In the end, he ended up losing to his republican opponent. What a pity. Had he won, he would’ve have ushered congress into a new frontier by being the first openly gay, southern congressman.
8. George Takei
The O.G. navigator of the Starship Enterprise, George Takei certainly has a colorful past. In addition to his legendary acting career, Takei also decided to into the political arena in the 70’s. Although, his initial bid for Los Angeles City Council in 1973 was an epic fail, he was later appointed to the board of directors of the Southern California Rapid Transit District where he was instrumental in helping to foster the Los Angeles Subway system. Since then, Takei has remained an activist of sorts by speaking out against various injustices as well as advocating for the LBGT community. Moreover, far from a figure who easily fades into the background, Takei continues to be quite vocal in regards to various initiatives and the upcoming election in particular. Comparing modern immigrants to his own family who was forced into internment camps when he was just 5 years old, Takei stands starkly against many of Trump’s proposed policies.
7. Shirley Temple
If you know this next actress from her classic movies alone, it might be difficult to imagine little Shirley Temple being all grown up and actually running for Congress. However, perhaps it was the mere fact of being forced to play a vast array of stereotypically girly roles that caused Temple to become such an outspoken feminist. Indeed, an actress who has been immortalized for being perpetually cutesy, sweet, and innocent, Shirley Temple certainly defied expectations by even attempting to run for office. Nevertheless, in 1967, she did just that. Pointing out that the political arena was supersaturated with male energy and could likely benefit from a shot of estrogen, Temple described herself as a “Republican-Independent”. Many of the candidates asserted she had an unfair advantage due to her level of fame. Once starring in a film with Ronald Reagan, it seems each of these stars landed in politics as Temple eventually landed three separate ambassador gigs.
6. Al Lewis
Most well known for his role as Grandpa Munster on the classic show, The Munsters, Al Lewis was also a bit of a politician in his own right. With a long history of activism under his belt, Lewis finally decided he was ready to run his own legitimate campaign. Settling on New York Governor as a member of the Green Party, Lewis’s campaign seems to have been outshined by his celebrity status. Rightfully so, congress all but erupted with laughter when he requested to be listed as “Grandpa” Al Lewis on the ballot as it seems they were unconvinced that the title would help his campaign in the slightest. Either way, although Lewis didn’t win, over the course of his campaign it was discovered that Grandpa Munster was definitely still a relevant part of the lives of many. It’s certainly not a political position, but proving you are still a beloved part of the lives of an array of people from across the globe is also nothing to sneeze at.
5. Al Franken
They say comedians and cartoonists are the only ones allowed to tell the truth. However, this is likely not true once they cross over into the political arena. Luckily, well known comedian, Al Franken attempted to cross this line in 2008 despite the odds. Although he had always been outspoken in the realm of politics in his role on Saturday Night Live, many were shocked to find out Al wanted to make this role a reality. Armed with his celebrity status and a slew of new ideas, Franken made a very serious bid for a senate seat in Minnesota, in 2008…but, no punch line here. He won! Still as outspoken and hilarious as ever, Franken has proved you can achieve a wide variety of things by simply being exactly who you are. In fact, before it became clear the Hillary Clinton would be taking on Tim Kaine, many were pushing for Franken to be her running mate for the upcoming election.
4. Gary Coleman
While this would have never worked at the height of his career, it should be clear and apparent that the world could benefit substantially from the catch phrase, “What you talkin‘ bout, Congress?!” As a part of the California recall (in which it was established that anyone who filed a petition and met the minimum qualifications for the job could run for governor, the late Gary Coleman decided to try his hand at politics. Although Coleman doesn’t initially strike you as the type to enter into the political realm, it seems that his bid for California governor was genuine, albeit futile. While it may have been enough to land him in the headlines, Gary Coleman’s relatively small body of acting credits weren’t quite enough to earn him the role of governor of California. Nevertheless, he put up a good fight and came in 8th place in 2003, losing to fellow actor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
3. Kal Penn
This well-known actor actually turned his back on Hollywood as well as his successful acting career for a career in politics. Perhaps most well-known for the slacker of a character he played in the film series, Harold and Kumar, the truth is almost always stranger than fiction. Inspired by Barack Obama and his successful bid for President of the United States, in 2009, he left his role on the popular series House in favor of a career in Washington. A controversial move of sorts, fans of Kal Penn made a vast array of speculations in regards to his seemingly abrupt shift from entertainment to politics. Luckily, he ignored the naysayers and managed to land himself in a powerful political position that appears to have some serious longevity. Just getting started on his new journey, Penn presently serves on the board of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities and so far, there is no sign of a relapse.
2. Marey Carey
Celebrity look-alike and former porn star, Marey Carey also made an unlikely bid for California Governor following the California recall of 2003. Although it was said to be a joke of a bid (like many other candidates following the recall), Carey’s name definitely appeared on the ballots and she had been in the public in an attempt to garner support. Nevertheless, it didn’t pan out after the first try (shocker) and many assumed they had heard the last of Carey as far as politics were considered. However, it seems she began to rethink things as she returned to the political arena and made a more serious bid for Lieutenant Governor in 2006. Unfortunately, we may never know what a great power Carey could have been. In the interest of protecting her family unit, she was forced to drop out of the race a month before in order to take care of her ill mother.
1. Ashley Judd
Lastly, with both beauty and talent, many were surprised to find out Ashley Judd has brains as well. Although quite a few people were excited to see just what Judd could bring to the table, they were denied that right almost as soon as the campaign began. Despite being a veteran in the world of film and headlines, Judd was not at all prepared for the level of mudslinging that often occurs in the political arena when she considered running for a Senate seat in Kentucky. Clearly not cut out for the cutthroat nature of politics, despite her seemingly positive intentions, Judd ended up dropping out of the race after only a month. This was said to be largely due to the fact that her opponent, Sen. Mitch McConnell began a smear campaign to take down the starlet. The ad basically painted the starlet as a brainwashed, Obama-worshiping puppet, and unfortunately, the concept of Double Jeopardy doesn’t apply to the court of public opinion.
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