What are we to make of political leadership, in the age of celebrity presidents?
On both sides of the Atlantic, blonde, goofy, brand-driven men are leading the free world. Both have risen to power principally by appealing to ticklish audiences. Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, despite being sacked in his first job as a journalist, has humoured his way through mass media to Number 10. The Donald, in a first term that makes clear the downsides of voting one whose social media cannot be controlled, seeks re-election on the back of a well-performing economy.
Maybe this sets a pattern. Maybe not immediately in Africa, where the political class have absolutely no appetite for letting unknowns seize the stage. Persisting paternalism and other cultural blockades to breaking out, based on an aversion for individuality, are considerable militating factors.
But who knows? Johnson’s ascent to the British Premiership has taken at least 25 years; Trump’s march to the White House stretches even further back. If today’s Instagram celebrities keep up with the Kardashians and Grandes while weaving in more say on political issues, they could – before two decades elapse – build “structure” for viable runs.
By then, you wouldn’t need to be blonde (or orange). You would have had long-standing, unimpeachable experience in being brand-driven. Today’s ability to tickle – encoded in thousands of likes and video watches – would become tomorrow’s electoral votes.
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