Barack Obama has been referred to as the biggest celebrity in the world by his competitor for the White House, John McCain. The usually positive label was meant as a criticism of course, of Obama’s style and sleekness masquerading as a lack of competence. As an outsider, I have no wish to comment about the political affairs of another country. What I do want to talk about however is the growing trend of “cool” political leaders in my country
Of course it would be inaccurate to call Obama’s, or any politician’s, celebrity status a new trend in politics. Ronald Reagan was already an actor when he ran for office, and John F Kennedy will always be remembered –besides his assassination- for his charm and suaveness arguably more so than his interventions in
But that has never been so in
This was an average looking man who disallowed F1 racing and casinos in
But today’s new batch of leaders in my country is of a different breed. Our Foreign Minister, George Yeo, has a blog and a facebook account which he faithfully maintains. He is not alone; at least eight other politicians are part of this online community. The Media Development Authority in
I’m not saying that celebrities can’t be politicians and vice versa. Reagan was instrumental to bringing about the end of the Cold War. But there are real dangers that cannot be ignored when public leaders are superstars.
For one, charm and charisma make an excellent cover for a myriad of flaws. Look at Joseph Estrada, 13th President of the
Estrada is an extreme case that most definitely doesn’t apply to either Obama or my nation’s leaders. Estrada was a college dropout and gangster and the demographics comprised largely the uneducated poor. Candidates and voters in my country and
It’s easier to assess that than what one may think. Pick any young Singaporean on the street and ask them who Vivian Balakrishnan –a popular and up-and-rising political star in
This apathy comes from an overachieving government, staffed with competent leaders who fought for
Which is what truly matters, and what worries me the most. While politicians in
We are empowering politicians to make our decisions for us, so shouldn’t we be at least more concerned about what they say and if they can deliver their promises, rather how well they can tickle our ears and how “cool” they are? After all, after politicians are elected into office they become public servants. And as we all know, superstars are used to being served rather than the hard labour that is often required of a government leader.