I grew up watching Mike Rowe's Dirty Jobs on the Discovery Channel and listening to his voice recounting the trials and travails aboard Alaskan crab boats on Deadliest Catch.
Even when he was describing a scene of terror or a sour turn of luck that was sure to spell financial ruin for a captain and his crew, I couldn't help but be comforted by the deep tones of reassurance in that amazing voice. It's undoubtedly his best quality. Used in combination with his everyman good looks, his wry smile, and his kind blue eyes, his success as a performer is no surprise. And his talents would no doubt be as valuable an asset in politics as they are in entertainment. At least, Rich Karlgaard certainly seems to think so.
Karlgaard has been the publisher of Forbes Magazine—you know the one all about money and rich people—since 1998, and used that position on Tuesday to publish an open letter to Mike Rowe under the headline "Mike Rowe for California Governor 2022." The letter expresses some lovely sentiments, celebrating Rowe's down-to-earth, common sense appeal, and arguing that these virtues would serve him well in the executive role at the head of California's government. There's really only one problem—Mike Rowe would be a terrible governor.
The main issue is that he has no idea what he's talking about. Rowe idolizes work and the tough, no-nonsense attitude that it takes to get the job done in some of the dirtiest, smelliest, and most life-threatening situations. But Mike Rowe has been hosting and narrating TV shows since the 90s—and has been paid well for it since at least 2003. His brief forays into the lives of workers and their struggles make for entertaining viewing, but they don't really give Rowe any special authority to speak on what's best for the American worker. And his efforts to fetishize the virtue of tough rugged work ends up valuing the job above the humanity of the person doing it.
This is best exemplified by his "Safety Third" slogan, which he uses to rail against workplace safety regulations and the "safety first" mentality which he claims makes workers "complacent"—it must be just a coincidence that they also cost employers time and money. It must be just a coincidence that Rowe has received backing from anti-regulatory obsessives like the Koch Brothers. Rowe has said of safety, "Is it important? Of course. But is it more important than getting the job done? No. Not even close. Making money is more important than safety – always." A normal person—someone with a real, everyday connection to the kind of work that injures people, and the kind of people who get hurt at work—could not write those words without a shudder of horror at the truth they reveal. Rowe seems unconcerned.
Mike Rowe reacts to op-ed calling on him to run for governor of California www.youtube.com
In an interview with Fox and Friends on Friday morning, Rowe responded to the suggestion of a gubernatorial run by demurring, but also offering a range of political opinions. He criticized a push for a higher minimum wage, referring vaguely to "the unintended consequence thing"—though he probably didn't mean the substantial drop in the suicide rate. He also attacked the idea that California could be held up as a model for national politics, attacking the state's tax structure and loss of various industries in a way that sounded a bit like a man preparing to run for governor.
Here's my own open letter to Mike Rowe:
If you are truly dissatisfied with the way California is being run, take the advice that you give to so many working class people—move to North Dakota, where the unemployment rate is 2.5% and there are abundant technical jobs in the energy industry.
Your official brand is relatability, but it's not who you really are. You've spent so much of your life making millions of dollars in the entertainment industry, yet you encourage people not to follow their passions—to do honest, dirty, steady work instead.
Until you've given up your fortune, taken one of your "mikeroweWORKS" foundation grants to get technical training, and gone out into the real world to live like an average American and feel what it's like to struggle, stop pretending that you know what's best for working people, stop taking money from wealthy people trying to protect their fortunes with anti-worker talking points, and definitely don't run for governor.