Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson vs. Donald Trump: A serious comparison

During a recent interview to promote his new NBC sitcom “Young Rock,” actor Dwayne Johnson once again hinted at a potential run for president of the United States. “I would consider a presidential run in the future if that’s what the people wanted,” he said. “Truly, I mean that — and I’m not flippant in any way with my answer. That would be up to the people. … I would wait, and I would listen. I would have my finger on the pulse, my ear to the ground.”         

At least twice before — once on Ellen DeGeneres’s talk show and once in an interview with Vanity Fair — Johnson spoke of “seriously considering” the idea, saying he “wouldn’t rule it out.” After his latest comments on the subject, I ran the idea past several Democratic and Republican friends. All thought his candidacy would be a non-starter.           

Their basic reasoning is that it is virtually impossible for a nonpolitician or civilian to secure a nomination, let alone win the presidency — especially without the backing of one of the two major political parties. Generally, that’s correct. But I disagree with them when it comes to Johnson’s prospects of winning the presidency.            

In many relevant ways, he already is in a class by himself. First, he has that invaluable “it” factor, which is virtually unattainable for most powerful leaders in the country. Second, almost every American can see some part of themselves in Johnson. Not only is he an accomplished person of color — his films alone have grossed almost $11 billion worldwide — but he rose to prominence on his own. He overcame a sometimes troubled childhood, involving multiple moves and schools, but he never gave up on his dreams. And, as Johnson himself has pointed out, things are different today, politically.           

During his interview with Vanity Fair after Donald Trump’s election in 2016, Johnson got right to the heart of the matter with regard to a possible presidential run: “I wouldn’t rule it out. … This past election shows that anything can happen.”         

Indeed. Which brings us back to Trump. Understanding that most of the left considers the former president to be the personification of evil, tens of millions of other Americans would still follow him. His election to the White House may have been the most shockingly unexpected political achievement in our nation’s history.     

Like Johnson, Trump hinted at running for president before doing so. The first time was way back in 1987, in his book “The Art of the Deal.” The book, written with Tony Schwartz, spent 48 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list (13 weeks at No. 1) and went a long way toward establishing Trump’s own elusive “it” factor.

Years later, but just as important in adding to the Trump mystique, came the NBC show “The Apprentice.” The program gave him a powerful platform to expand his brand and introduced the New York businessman to a new generation of Americans.      

After Trump’s election, with the anger of many Americans at both political parties pushing him over the finish line, a number of would-be imitators quickly appeared on the horizon — including Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, former Disney CEO Bob Iger, JPMorgan Chase Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon, and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. All are successful, wealthy businessmen, but none possesses the necessary “it” factor.   

Johnson, however, not only has more of that “it” factor in his baby finger than all of those captains of industry combined, but his growing platform makes Trump’s look like a grainy commercial on an early ’90s cable access show.

In explaining why he voted for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, while still extending an olive branch to those who supported Trump, Johnson demonstrated why his voice comes across as genuine, why he could speak to millions of his fellow citizens. 

“My vote represented my little girls,” he said. “It also represented humanity, decency, principles and values @laurenhashianofficial [his wife] and I instill in our little daughters. And finally, my vote represented the importance of just being a decent human being. And to me, a decent human being matters. This win feels so good, but now the real work begins because we have an entire country divided. I’m not turning my back on you just because we have a difference of opinion. I’m not made that way. I’m still right here, and when the sun comes up, we all get up with it, go to work, feed our families and pay our bills.” 

Last September, in announcing he would vote for the Democratic ticket, Johnson emphasized, “As a political independent & centrist, I’ve voted for both parties in the past.” 

Haters at both ends of the political spectrum might recoil at such a pragmatic and unifying admission, but millions of Americans likely will embrace it as a message of hope from someone who has “walked their walk” and understands their struggles.

Since Johnson voted for Biden and Harris, it’s safe to assume he’s willing to wait a term or two or more. But if one day he does decide to run, his decency, humanity, philanthropy and real-life accomplishments will outshine Trump’s across the board.

Douglas MacKinnon, a political and communications consultant, was a writer in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and former special assistant for policy and communications at the Pentagon during the last three years of the Bush administration.

Tags 2024 presidential candidates celebrity politicians Donald Trump Dwayne Johnson Joe Biden Mark Cuban Michael Bloomberg Presidency of Donald Trump

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