Would 2024 be a better year if America elected a pop star as its president?

Singers seem to be among the few left capable of imagining a better world

Protesters from the national group Jewish Voice for Peace call for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war during rallies across the US marking the 8th night of Hanukkah as they block a highway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on December 14. Reuters
Powered by automated translation

A peculiarly British tradition is the Christmas Number One, the best-selling pop song of the season. Right now, number one in the charts is Last Christmas by Wham! The fact that the single was released in 1984 plays to a British adherence to tradition and fondness for recycling things from the past that at times amounts to ancestor worship.

While listening to the radio, in among the age-old Christmas carols and 1950s crooners such as Bing Crosby, I heard another old favourite: John Lennon’s Imagine. You would have to be more than 50 years old to remember when Imagine was released. In 1971, Lennon was imagining a better, peaceful world amid all kinds of grim news. That has obvious resonance right now as we contemplate the end of 2023 and imagine a better New Year.

Back in 1971 the world was in the depths of the Cold War. Europe was divided between East and West. Berlin had a wall which split families and friends. There was tension in the Middle East, a war in Vietnam that was spreading beyond its borders, domestic trouble across the US and – again, as usual – political divisions in many parts of the world.

And so now on the edge of 2024, rather than doing the annual look back on the highs and a lot of lows of 2023, with the sounds of Imagine still ringing in my ears, I wondered if it is possible to imagine the coming year in the spirit of John Lennon’s semi-optimism. Could we imagine a year in which, as another great visionary, Martin Luther King Jr put it, people are judged by the content of their character, not the colour of their skin?

Could we imagine a world in which people of the three great Abrahamic faiths come together to decide that it is acceptable to discuss religious differences but unacceptable to kill or persecute people because of those differences in faith?

The prospect of a re-match next November between Biden and Trump does not set the heart singing with joy

Could we imagine living up to the ideals of the 2017 Bahrain Declaration for a world in which no-one is subjected to violence or terror because of their gender, nationality or the way they choose to worship – or not worship? Perhaps.

What we can certainly predict is that 2024 will be the year of elections worldwide, with all the uncertainty that political divisions bring. Electoral contests are already beginning in the US, Britain and across the EU. There are dozens of others in countries right through the diplomatic alphabet from Algeria and Brazil to Venezuela. The British general election, some insiders say, will be in October. Others think it could be in May. Either way the UK faces months of uncertainty and argument.

So does the US. The prospect of a re-match next November between Joe Biden and Donald Trump does not set the heart singing with joy. And so, in light-hearted end-of-year conversations with some Washington friends and insiders recently, I have been trying to imagine (not always seriously) if among more than 350 million Americans some new talented person might break the mould and provide an alternative to the usual Trump-Biden politics.

In a discussion with a well-informed American lawyer, we joked about a star third candidate who might cheer us all up yet also be competent and highly regarded. And we came up with the obvious winner: Taylor Swift. No, seriously. Think about it. Does she break the mould? Yes. Brilliant communicator? Yes. Less than half the age of Mr Trump or Mr Biden? Popular? Successful in business? Yes, yes, yes. More successful in business than Mr Trump, you might say, and with less unpleasant baggage.

The only possible disqualification of a Taylor Swift presidency (apart from her not being interested) came when my American lawyer friend pointed out that presidents must be at least 35 years of age. Taylor Swift is 34. Then a quick check told us the good news. Under the US Constitution a president must be 35 years old but only when they take office. The inauguration is in January 2025 at which time Taylor Swift will be 35 years old.

So that’s it. Settled. The youngest US president in history and the first woman US president in history. Imagine. Of course, even in the land where almost anything at times seems possible, Swift is undoubtedly too smart to throw away a wonderful career as a superstar for the grind of political office. But maybe that reveals why so much of our politics around the world needs to be re-booted as less destructive and more positive.

We could start by imagining how we can build on the Cop28 process and the agreement reached. We could think how to reward leaders who at least try to solve problems rather than create them. We could then imagine a happier new year after what’s been an often-miserable 2023. After all John Lennon sang in Imagine that he was just a dreamer but then he added: “I’m not the only one.” Happy New Year. We can hope.

Published: December 27, 2023, 7:00 AM