Success is transferable. Former All-Pro athletes become sports commentators or coaches, and successful businesspeople become lecturers and public speakers. These career transitions coincide with their previous occupations. However, this practical migration is not always true for famous entertainers who seek to move into the political arena. This was the case for Ronald Reagan, Jessie Ventura, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and possibly Luther Campbell until this past week when he lost his electoral bid for Miami-Dade mayor.
Campbell, the former 2 Live Crew frontman, cast his hat in the ring for the mayoral race after Mayor Carlos Alvarez was recalled in March 2011. Campbell’s background in politics is the same as many Americans: he votes. Some might add that his activist background also includes winning two separate appeals to the Supreme Court for “freedom of speech” and “fair use.”
Most professional careers require standards and training. For instance, not just anyone can become a schoolteacher, police officer, doctor or lawyer. However, to become a politician, there are no skills, training or qualifications specifically required. Although there may be no formal requirements, there are some basic attributes that we should expect: integrity; compassion; a moral compass; intelligence; thorough knowledge of the political process; familiarity with the context that propagated the current social climate; community awareness; superior managerial skill; and an instinct for identifying core issues and solving problems. The unspoken characteristics are being “popular” and “likeable.” Campbell knew this and often touted this fact during interviews, emphasizing that only he could “get people to vote across racial lines.”
Campbell was merely using his celebrity status to bolster his ego. His motivation was to win, not necessarily to succeed. He talked more about the how’s and why’s of winning than the change he planned to institute. Furthermore, his focus was mainly on issues in Liberty City and Overtown, but Miami is a culturally diverse city with other areas that would have needed his focus.
As a Miami native, I’ve heard his music for most of my life. I always liked the beats, but even as a free-spirited young woman, I thought the lyrics were often in poor taste. I can remember his televised debate against Althea F. McMillan, the founder of Abstinence Between Strong Teens. She said his sexually charged lyrics and videos were leading youth to destruction, but he argued that his fans were all that really mattered. Perhaps, Campbell, who wanted to decriminalize marijuana and enact a tax on strippers, has in way contributed to the depravity he describes in Miami’s inner city, which he now purports to be out of control because of police presence.
I think a celebrity’s status can positively impact politics, but in Campbell’s case, he would have just been working to legally incorporate what he has always advocated: making money from sex and drugs.
Annette Johnson is the owner of Allwrite Advertising and Publishing (www.e-allwrite.com), and the author of “What’s Your Motivation?: Identifying and Understanding What Drives You” (www.whatmotivation.com).