How can a celebrity become President? A Brief Explanation of the US Election System

Why do celebrities succeed in American politics?

Be it past President Ronald Reagan, former Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger, current President Donald Trump or even emerging potential candidate Kanye West; America had a storied history of celebrities turning to politics.

As an outsider looking in, it seems farcical to suggest that a British celebrity could ever occupy Number Ten, so how did the host of the US Apprentice become President of the USA?

Basic Requirements

According to the USA constitution there are 3 fundamental requirements you need to meet to run for President. You must be a ‘natural born’ citizen (someone who gain US citizenship at birth rather than applying for it later in life), be over 35 years old and have lived in the US for at least 14 years. But alongside these conditions, there are other steps a presidential candidate has to take.


To run as a legitimate candidate involves going through a significant amount of red tape. If you aren’t lucky enough to be chosen as an official Democratic or Republican candidate, then running as an independent candidate comes with its own challenges. 

For example, registering with the Federal Election Commission, a complicated and expensive process. You would also need to register as a candidate within each of the 50 states, a process requiring a significant number of signatures. While achieving this may not be hard for a celebrity, each State also has its own rules for candidate application, presenting more of a challenge for those running independently.


After having waded through all of the admin, the main way to become President of the USA is to gain support. Winning the popular vote is not always enough, as we saw with Hilary Clinton’s campaign in 2016.

Even with the electoral system in place, which assigns different numbers of electors to each State depending on their populations, ultimately, it is the person who gets the most votes who wins. In this aspect, it makes sense that celebrities may be some of the best placed people to run a successful campaign because they are likely to already have a strong public presence and mass social media followings at their disposal. Kanye West has a following of around 30 million on Twitter alone. 

Additionally, celebrities already have experience making television appearances or sharing their views on social media, things a Presidential candidate would have to do. Unlike outsiders, celebrities benefit from an existing public image and name recognition, meaning their campaigns are more likely to gain attention. Money is also key in a Presidential race, candidates having to pay for advertising and cover travel costs to campaign across the country. Again, celebrities seem obvious presidential candidates in this regard, having ample funds to support their own campaigns without having to find backers. Although all private funds used do have to be reported to the Federal Election Commission. 

Will there be a celebrity in the White House in 2020?

A short answer to this question is probably not. While Kanye West maybe be a front runner in some people’s eyes, with supportive followers, sufficient funds and even endorsements from the current President and Elon Musk, it is unlikely that he will be able to become registered in every state in time for the election – mostly because he has missed the deadlines. With key votes occurring in Spring and Summer and ‘Super Tuesday’, an important voting day, already passed in March, West’s campaign is practically over before it has begun. 

While it is unlikely that the White House will be welcoming another celebrity through its doors in January, it’s not impossible that there might be an other celebrity president within the next few years.

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Why do celebrities succeed in American politics?