Opinion: The Jenner Dilemma
Last week Sean Hannity flew to California to sit down with the newly announced gubernatorial candidate, former olympian, and reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce Jenner. There were many rumors of Jenner running, and they were officially confirmed last week on the cusp of the recall certification.
I don't believe I need to explain or give any background on Jenner, Jenner's high-profile celebrity status precedes her, and that may be one of Jenner's glaring problems.
Who can forget the historic 2003 gubernatorial recall, starring action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger whose celebrity status helped him rise to power in a similar fashion? In a recall election crowded with candidates, Schwarzenegger's celebrity status was able to buoy him to the Governor’s Mansion. It could be the same pathway Jenner sees here.
But the Jenner "Dilemma" poses a unique problem for California voters in this upcoming recall election. It's no secret Jenner's celebrity status gives her campaign a lot of life. No Fox News host has rushed to interview any candidate as fast as they did for Jenner, as far as I know. It's not crazy to think that the ratings for interviewing the first transgender Republican candidate for Governor would be huge, so I could see the rationale for rushing to do so.
The interview itself, though? Not very impressive.
Jenner seemed overly excited and unpolished. Not surprising since it was her first major interview as a gubernatorial candidate. I assume Jenner will get tips and advice from many well-paid political consultants and advisers on how to improve for the following interview. This first round was with the friendly company of Sean Hannity, who threw Jenner mainly softball questions to answer. Subsequent rounds might not be so pleasant in the near future.
Even with softball questions, Jenner's answers seemed pre-written by a focus group. They were generally without any specifics of how to fix things. Jenner stated that she "intends to surround herself with the smartest people and let them handle the specifics." I hope they are brilliant people because the interview itself lacked any answers on how to fix anything in California. The interview mainly consisted of poking fun at Gavin Newsom and just how bad things are in California.
The state of California is grappling with income inequality, housing affordability, homelessness, and much worst than that; we're all aware of this. Everyone pokes fun and criticizes Newsom for his performance as Governor. The majority of California residents no longer care for him and want him gone. More than 2.1 million Californians have signed a petition to recall Newson. According to the California Secretary of State, not all of those signatures will prove valid — but it takes fewer than 1.5 million to trigger a recall.
As a candidate for Governor, Jenner's job is to provide solutions and leadership, not comments from the peanut gallery.
So, where does Jenner, the candidate, fit into this race? Is it purely a desire to stay in the limelight? Does Jenner have real solutions for California? How does the Republican Party that has cheered on the pushback on transgender rights now suddenly cheer on a transgender candidate? Does Jenner's blend of fiscal conservatism with progressive social ideas appeal to Californians across the spectrum, or will Jenner's support for President Trump ruin it all?
My concern for Jenner in this race is that her celebrity status will suck the air out of the room, leaving other candidates with viable platforms with little opportunity to advertise their campaigns. Jenner advertises herself as a "compassionate disrupter" and likens her run to former President Trump. The glaring difference is that Trump had decades of running a billion-dollar empire. While not the same as running the government, the soft skills were there when managing and delegating to the right people. Jenner? Well, I'm not sure what soft skills she brings to the table.
In this early stage of the recall, Jenner running for Governor is more of a show than an actual campaign. And that's saying something considering that John Cox debuted his campaign last Tuesday in Sacramento, bringing a 1,000-pound bear named Tag. Cox used the animal to illustrate his campaign theme of "Beauty and the Beast." Cox argued that Newsom is a "pretty boy" ( the beauty ) who has spent his career climbing the political ladder, and California needs a "beast."
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About the Author
Philip Mauriello Jr. is the and host of the California Underground Podcast. You can follow him on Instagram @californiaunderground