The actor's blank slate politics has drawn many admirers
Everybody knows that stupid polls are very popular with the media. So when I first saw headlines declaring that Matthew McConaughey leads incumbent Greg Abbott 45% to 33% in a hypothetical grudge match over who ought to be the next governor of Texas, I assumed that’s what I was looking at: a stupid poll.
It turns out, however, that it was serious enough . McConaughey may be the juicy attention-getter but the pollsters also asked about guns, Roe vs. Wade and included the resolutely non-sensationalist question: “How important is it that the Public Utilities Commission provide greater oversight of ERCOT?” (Spoiler alert: 56% of respondents say “very”).
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And it is Matthew McConaughey himself who is fuelling the speculation surrounding a potential gubernatorial run: last month he told the Austin American-Statesman that he was giving the idea “honest consideration”. In the same interview he described politics as “a broken business,” and said that it was time for an “aggressively centric” approach, praising values held by those both on the Right and on the Left.
This indicates that he dissents from boilerplate Hollywood progressivism, yet the precise details of that dissent are a mystery. In his recent memoir, Greenlights, McConaughey describes himself as coming from a line of “outlaw libertarians who vote red down the line because they believe it’ll keep fewer outlaws from trespassin’ on their territory” but remains tight-lipped about his own political views.
Meanwhile, according to The Texas Tribune, he hasn’t voted in a primary since 2012, and has never donated to a state or federal campaign. For all anybody knows, McConaughey may have voted for Ted Cruz over Beto O’Rourke in 2018.
To make it to age 51 in Hollywood without becoming an irritating celebrity gasbag shows impressive restraint and is not (I would suggest) something to be thrown away lightly. Within Texas, McConaughey enjoys the status of a huge star with deep local roots who annoys nobody. This is a select group that also includes Willie Nelson, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top and…. perhaps no-one else. Like Nelson and Gibbons, he is laid back, genial and quirky — “a character”. Combine that with the blank slate of his politics, and it is easy to see why he is polling so well.
The problem, of course, is that if McConaughey does throw his hat into the ring, he will have to declare positions that will immediately start alienating people, even if he runs as an independent. Any stance on the Second Amendment that is even halfway electable within Texas will make him deeply unpopular with his Hollywood peers. Or it could turn out that his centrism is not that centric after all, and he could run a Beto-style hyper progressive campaign that gets high approval ratings from Oprah, but which ultimately flops at home.