America Runs on Ben Affleck Not Running for Congress

Picture it: Congressman Ben Affleck. Or just watch State of Play. Photo: Universal/Kobal/Shutterstock

Did you know that at some point in the past few years, as Ben Affleck was playing Batman, lying about his sprawling back tattoo, and becoming an accidental Dunkin’ Donuts influencer, he also considered running for the U.S. Congress? I’m guessing that like me, you did not. For years, the actor kept this information under his Red Sox hat, only revealing to the Boston Globe several days ago that he considered running to represent Massachusetts’ 7th Congressional District in 2018 — a race that was ultimately won by Representative Ayanna Pressley.

This Affleck admission is now getting too little attention. He should be praised throughout the nation for not inviting us to participate in his Hamlet-esque deliberations on whether he should run for office — unlike some actors I could name.

There’s long been speculation that Affleck might attempt to make the jump from Hollywood to Washington. His PR team has been deflecting talk about a congressional run since as far back as the early 2000s, and his own political aspirations came up when he played a congressman in a 2009 film. (I’m assuming. I am not going to comb through coverage of the State of Play press junket.)

Now we know that Affleck actually gave it some thought in 2018. During an interview about his new film The Tender Bar, the Globe’s Mark Shanahan asked Affleck if he’d ever “seriously considered” running for office. “People wanted me to run against [former U.S. Representative Michael] Capuano in the, you know, the old Tip O’Neill district,” Affleck responded. Shanahan noted that Pressley — who unseated Capuano in a House Democratic primary and ran unopposed in the general election — now holds the seat.

“She probably would have beat my [expletive], so I’m glad I didn’t run,” Affleck said. “Even though she’s from Ohio, I have a feeling she would have cleaned my clock.”

Affleck continued:

But, yeah, I did a lot of campaigning [in 2004] for John Kerry, because I liked him; the Democratic National Convention was in Boston; I felt strongly about gay marriage; and I felt George Bush and the war in Iraq was wrong. But I didn’t want to run for Congress. I looked at the life of people in Congress and it was a constant process of glad-handing, begging for money, and being beholden to people. It’s so depressing. I thought it was miserable and corrupt and ugly. So I started the Eastern Congo Initiative. We’ve given away $20 million to Congolese community-based organizations in one of the poorest places in the world and I’ve been there 15 times. That’s what I do.

It’s impressive that Affleck did not consider opposing the Iraq War, strongly favoring gay marriage, and being famous sufficient qualification for a seat in the House. Celebrities with far less star power and far weaker political convictions than Affleck have been unable to resist running for office — or at least constantly teasing the public about a potential run. And it’s notable that Affleck made this call two years after the election of Donald Trump, which breathed new life into the idea that celebrities can easily transition to elected office. (Stars entering politics is, in fact, a decades-old tradition, but I’d argue it’s largely a bad one.)

The actor is also 100 percent correct about politics: It’s a “miserable” and “depressing” business. This is especially true when your other career options include playing a “wonderfully skeezy” count in a film you wrote with your bros about medieval dueling and rape culture (?) and letting the paparazzi take photos of you patting J.Lo’s butt (again, I’m assuming, but I’ll gladly lounge on a yacht with Bennifer 2.0 to be sure). Affleck “understood the assignment,” as they say: America needs him to churn out solid films and transcendent tabloid stories more than we need him in Congress.

The two-time Oscar winner and 2002 People Magazine Sexiest Man Alive has received plenty of praise in his life, but he told the Globe, “I’ll read a good review. I’m not above a little flattery, believe me.” So, here you go sir: I commend you for not making me and the rest of the political media spend months writing about your potential congressional campaign. And, box-office numbers aside, I thought The Last Duel was great.

America Runs on Ben Affleck Not Running for Congress