Does Levi Johnston have mayoral potential?

By Alison Bowler

Posing in Playgirl magazine, becoming the satirical love of Kathy Griffin on her reality show and agreeing to do a music video with pop star Brittani Senser are just some of Levi Johnston’s recent accomplishments, all beginning with his most famous “accomplishment:” getting former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s 17-year old daughter pregnant.

 Levi Johnston, now 20 and tightly holding on to his celebrity status, has announced his latest plan for the future: running for mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, his hometown, in 2011. When “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno asked Johnston’s former fiancé Bristol Palin in a recent interview whether or not she would vote for her ex, her response was,“Well he needs to move to Wasilla, to the city limits. He needs to get his GED.” Levi’s response to this comment in an interview on MSNBC with Lawrence O’Donnell was that he was “working on it.”

Johnston’s sit-down with Lawrence O’Donnell struck a resemblance to Sarah Palin’s interview with Katie Couric. Like his almost-mother-in law, Johnston struggled when asked certain questions. In fact, O’Donnell mentioned to Johnston the similarities between the two interviews, making him aware that he was not alone in his struggles with “tough” questions. Johnston admitted he did not watch a lot of television or read many newspapers besides the local Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman.

Do people like Levi Johnston really want to make a difference in the world? Or is this simply a stepping-stone to even more fame? It is hard not to pick the second choice, simply based on the fact that Johnston’s responses seemed all but informed, and his previous engagements in the public eye appear to be driven by a thirst for popularity.  

It’s very possible that no one will vote for Johnston in Wasilla, despite his popularity and connections to the former mayor, Palin, but it seems as if everyone else in the country doesn’t want this to happen. Public Policy Polling found that about 6 percent of America views Johnston in a positive way.  Johnston’s favorability in Wasilla is also extremely low.

Still, we give a surprising amount of attention to celebrities who run for office. In fact, some of the time they win local, state and, in one case, presidential positions. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ronald Reagan are two of the more famous examples. To their credit, they’ve made a positive impact in the areas they’ve governed.

Why does Levi Johnston get different treatment? So he never dressed up as the Terminator and no, he hasn’t been in any movies, but he’s in the public eye nonetheless. He has been on magazine covers, interviewed on talk shows, and has made plenty of public appearances. He has ties to a famous politician, though little experience in politics himself.

The people of Wasilla are the only ones who can elect him, even if the rest of the country is yelling “No!” Should we give Johnston more credit than he has now? Is there any chance he might end up doing a great job for his city?

Most likely though, it seems as if Johnston really has no clue. His interview on MSNBC was quite representative of the fact that maybe he should stick to some of his other talents to sustain his popularity. Yet there is no doubt that he will continue to rally for his own success both in Wasilla and in a way, the entire country. Will the country ever see him as a viable candidate to hold any type of position in office?

While people may feel Johnston should receive more credit or could somehow manage to leap over his own ignorance and appear a more polished politician, I struggle with the fact that an ignorant and barely famous person could run for mayor simply to get another article written about them by TMZ, the incredibly critical and somewhat exploitative tabloid.

What is happening to public office in the United States? Is it just a catapult to even more fame and maybe the possibility of writing a book or two? Or maybe it has always been this way. Maybe the entirety of politics has been a publicity stunt marked by people seeking personal fame and a book opportunity. In that way, sadly, Levi Johnston is no different, no worse, no less qualified. His flaws are just more obvious.

Alison Bowler is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected].