It is too easy and comforting to assume Donald Trump is an aberration, that people with no experience of government or record of public service will not normally be elected President of the United States. It took only a resounding speech by Oprah Winfrey at the Golden Globes Awards on Monday to raise the possibility Trump could be succeeded by another television celebrity.
Winfrey has previously repeatedly denied any such desire but that has not discouraged speculation that she could be the answer to the Democratic Party's dreams as a candidate to stand against Trump in 2020. Suddenly, pundits who have lamented the election of a complete novice whose candidacy grew out of his television show are contemplating that it could happen again.
If it did happen twice in succession, would it become a pattern for the US Presidency? Would both parties start looking to popular television performers for their candidates for high office? And would the trend be confined to the United States? Would other Western democracies, including ours, come to prefer entertainers in positions of public leadership?
After just a year of Trump, the whole proposition should be discredited, yet he still has enough support in the US to be given every chance of re-election. His supporters seem to forgive the stupid things he says and does, because they still find him likeable and immensely entertaining. The qualities that can attract and hold an audience on television can work, on a public level at least, in the daily grind of government.
It is not working for Trump on a deeper level. His legislative achievements are scant so far, his foreign policy is confused, his statements on Twitter could be disastrous if anybody took them seriously, he has dismissed more senior staff than any President so early in his term and is reported to preside in a White House riven with dissension between those who compete to provide him with the flattery he prefers to critical advice.
But none of this need damage his re-election prospects so long as the US does not suffer a recession in the meantime. The damage he has done to America's external image and leadership, and to the dignity of his office, are of no concern to his voters. He is proving that entertainment alone can continue to work for him.
If politics after him succumbs to the cult of celebrity, does it matter? Not all media performers are delusional narcissists who think they would have nothing to learn about government if, perish the thought, they were elected. Winfrey impresses as one who would exercise responsibility and good judgment without losing her empathy with people and her ability to express their problems and their aspirations.
Some can make the transition from show business effectively. Former film star Ronald Reagan became one of America's most esteemed presidents. But he learned public administration as Governor of California first. Trump has come straight from running a private company, answerable to nobody. His performance ought to have discredited this route to power already, but he might be just the first to be elected unprepared.