Editorial: The stars of 2020

  • President Dwayne Johnson? Stranger things have happened. AP

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The next first-in-the-nation presidential primary is just 41 months away, which means that it’s not too soon to be watching for candidates.

Most of them will be Democrats and independents, since it appears that Republican Donald Trump has already begun running for a second term.

Last time around, 30 Republicans and 28 Democrats paid the $1,000 filing fee to be on a presidential primary ballot. Let’s top that in 2019. The state needs the money.

Word is that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has been traveling the country and doing candidate-like things – bottle feeding a farm animal, working on a factory assembly line and talking to old people. The world’s sixth-richest person says he isn’t planning a run, but no one puts himself through what he’s doing unless he sees the leader of the free world when he looks in the mirror. We hope to see Mark at an Old Home Day parade or flipping pancakes at a Legion breakfast.

Zuckerberg won’t have the field to himself, even if traditional candidates – people who’ve had experience in government and past electoral success – are ruled out. That includes Al Franken, a comedian and former head writer at Saturday Night Live. Given the new rules for political success, Franken, by dint of being a competent senator, has proven that he’s overqualified.

Oprah Winfrey, who’s no slouch in the money department herself, keeps saying she won’t run for political office, but then most candidates say that at this stage in the game. Now that presidential elections hinge not on ideas but on celebrity, our bet is that she would trounce Trump. She’s infinitely more likeable, and her branding and media empire dwarf his.

The 2020 contenders won’t all be celebrities. Some might come from the business world a la Ross Perot, the Texas entrepreneur whose run as an independent was blamed for tilting the 1992 election to Bill Clinton. That contingent could include Trump tweaker Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team and a regular on the reality television show Shark Tank, or Starbucks founder Howard Schultz. Both men are self-made billionaires, philanthropists and close followers of national politics.

Finally, there’s the celebrity ticket that heads the field, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and his vice presidential running mate, Tom Hanks. With Johnson as president, Putin would have to keep his shirt on lest The Rock take off his. For his part, the lovable Hanks was selected in a Reader’s Digest poll as the most trusted person in America. Gonna be hard to beat that team.

Here’s a slice of their campaign announcement as it appeared on Saturday Night Live: “In the past I never would’ve run for president. I was worried I wasn’t qualified,” Johnson said. “But the truth is, now I think I’m a little too qualified.” Hanks stressed his military record: “I would get the senior vote, because I fought in World War II in 10 different movies,” the star of Saving Private Ryan said.

Billionaires, businessmen, celebrities – we welcome them all to New Hampshire’s legendary primary and extend to all of them an invitation to meet with the Monitor’s editorial board.