Politics as Pop Culture

Song And Dance: Of Course Clay Aiken Is Running For Congress

Clay Aiken, seen here in November, has announced that he's running for Congress. i i

Clay Aiken, seen here in November, has announced that he's running for Congress. Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images
Clay Aiken, seen here in November, has announced that he's running for Congress.

Clay Aiken, seen here in November, has announced that he's running for Congress.

Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

Yesterday, we learned that Clay Aiken, who lost to Ruben Studdard at the end of the second season of American Idol way back in 2003, will be running for Congress in North Carolina's 2nd District.

Let's all smirk about what the world is coming to if an American Idol runner-up can run for Congress. Let's all roll our eyes, let's all be deeply and highly amused. What a silly idea! A reality show person, my word.

Oh, by the way, have I mentioned that my airport is named after this guy?

Ronald Reagan, portraying a chimpanzee-raising professor, is shown with Diana Lynn in a scene from the 1951 film Bedtime for Bonzo. i i

Ronald Reagan, portraying a chimpanzee-raising professor, is shown with Diana Lynn in a scene from the 1951 film Bedtime for Bonzo. AP hide caption

itoggle caption AP
Ronald Reagan, portraying a chimpanzee-raising professor, is shown with Diana Lynn in a scene from the 1951 film Bedtime for Bonzo.

Ronald Reagan, portraying a chimpanzee-raising professor, is shown with Diana Lynn in a scene from the 1951 film Bedtime for Bonzo.

AP

My governor used to be this guy.

Former professional wrestler Jesse (The Body) Ventura is shown in full regalia in this photo taken from the WWF's "The Wrestling Album" released in 1985. i i

Former professional wrestler Jesse (The Body) Ventura is shown in full regalia in this photo taken from the WWF's "The Wrestling Album" released in 1985. AP hide caption

itoggle caption AP
Former professional wrestler Jesse (The Body) Ventura is shown in full regalia in this photo taken from the WWF's "The Wrestling Album" released in 1985.

Former professional wrestler Jesse (The Body) Ventura is shown in full regalia in this photo taken from the WWF's "The Wrestling Album" released in 1985.

AP

This guy used to be on The Real World.

Don't forget this guy!

Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan. i i

Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan. AP hide caption

itoggle caption AP
Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan.

Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan.

AP

And this guy!

Truly, Clay Aiken running for Congress isn't even that weird. This has been going on for so long, and making people chortle derisively for so long, that there's a Tom Lehrer song about it that was written in 1965 — about the song-and-dance-man-turned-politician George Murphy, which rhymed "Helen Gahagan" (actress who married actor Melvyn Douglas and was elected to Congress) and "Ronald Reagan" (whom you may have heard of). "Ronald Reagan," by the way, was specifically pronounced with utter bafflement, 15 years before the guy got a big promotion.

It may sound silly, but plenty of people who run for Congress have done nothing that particularly suggests useful expertise, and in Aiken's case, while not all of us are fans of his singing style, he's got a solid history with issue advocacy, particularly for people with disabilities. And he is one of the very few people about whom I would say, "Well, and he was very likeable on that Celebrity Apprentice program." (He lost to Arsenio Hall. What a ripoff. Don't get me started.)

Yes, he once warbled a love song originated by a cartoon mouse. But hey, everyone does things they regret, or at least some of the rest of us regret, and if you don't believe me, look at Ryan Seacrest's hair in that clip.

Clay Aiken probably wouldn't even make the Top 500 on a list of Silliest Humans To Run For Office This Year. He sings, he dances (sort of), he used to be a special ed teacher, and once he gets over the hurdle of reminding people that this time around they can only vote for him once, there's no telling how far he might go. For good or for ill, running for office has never been limited to those with a spotless history of being taken seriously.

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