A new interview with actor Matthew McConaughey — the maybe-he-is, maybe-he-isn’t candidate for Texas governor — begs the question of whether the Oscar winner steered clear of political-science studies at his alma mater, the University of Texas.
In a wide-ranging interview with the New York Times Opinion podcast Sway, the Austin resident danced around questions about his potential run for governor, his stance on abortion, and his position on voting restrictions. The New York Times published the interview October 7.
McConaughey tells podcast host Kara Swisher, known for her sharp questioning, that taking sides on political issues right now “precedes the discussion of something larger and much more important. …” McConaughey says he’s being vague about his political beliefs “on purpose.”
In the interview, McConaughey avoided taking sides on Texas’ controversial new law that The Texas Tribune succinctly describes as restricting how and when voters cast ballots. Supporters say the law aims to prevent election fraud.
Pressed about his opinion of the voting law, McConaughey told Swisher: “You know, I don’t know enough about that to be able to discuss the details on how I feel about that. I think it should be easier to vote. I think everyone should, if you’re an American citizen and you’re of age, and you don’t have your criminal record, that you should be able to vote.”
Swisher also probed McConaughey’s position on abortion. He declined to use the podcast as a platform to share his overarching thoughts on abortion.
McConaughey did, however, weigh in on Texas’ controversial new prohibition of abortions after the six-week mark in a pregnancy. McConaughey criticized the law’s six-week provision, lack of an exception to pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, and reliance on citizen “bounties” to police illegal abortions. However, he didn’t condemn the law outright.
“We’ve been trying to figure out that, and how to play God with that situation, since the beginning,” McConaughey said of abortion. “But this latest move by Texas? [It] feels like a back-to-front sort of Roe vs. Wade loophole that they’re trying to get into. [It] feels a little juvenile in its implementation to me.”
Addressing his potential campaign for governor, McConaughey acknowledged he’s still learning about politics and figuring out how he might fit into the political arena.
“Where can I be most useful?” he told Swisher. “Is politics an embassy for me to be of the most use to myself, to my family, to the most amount of people in my life moving forward?”
“I’m not a man who comes at politics from a political background. You know, I’m more of a statesman, philosopher, folk-singing poet,” the Dazed and Confused and Dallas Buyers Club star later said. “I don’t really talk politics. I talk people.”
Regarding how he’s gearing up for a prospective gubernatorial bid, McConaughey said he hadn’t commissioned any polls and wasn’t forming an advisory committees.
“Yeah, I’m trying to form a committee with me. I mean, I have people and mentors that I’ve talked with and seek counsel from. I’ll keep those [names] to myself,” said McConaughey, all the while not tipping his hand about his party affiliation.
As McConaughey further contemplates his political future, former Democratic presidential and U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke, an El Paso Democrat, reportedly hopes to challenge Abbott in the 2022 election.
One recent poll finds 46 percent of registered Texas voters believe Abbott should be reelected, while 41 percent think McConaughey and O’Rourke should enter the race. Another recent poll gives McConaughey a nine-point edge over Abbott, while Abbott enjoys a five-point advantage over O’Rourke.
“The camera loves them, but do they have the star power and the political chops to corral the big job in Austin? McConaughey and O’Rourke may still be on the fence, but their numbers suggest they have the attention of voters,” Quinnipiac University polling analyst Tim Malloy says.