On Sunday night, we finally got an answer to a question that kept getting older as we all—well, as we all got older too: after years of encouraging speculation, Matthew McConaughey announced he will not be running for governor. In a roughly three-minute video, the movie star—who skyrocketed from promising young screen presence to international sensation based as much on his playing the bongos naked as on any particular film role—explained that he’s learned quite a bit about politics over the past years. But that interest won’t culminate in a campaign for the state’s highest office.
It’s useful to have certainty on that. Texas has had its share of novelty candidates in years past. Remember musician and satirist Kinky Friedman’s “Why the Hell Not?” independent gubernatorial campaign in 2006—not to mention the mayoral runs by beloved homeless Austinite Leslie Cochran. But this was different in kind: Kinky Friedman, for one, is a minor public figure who occasionally pals around with actual celebrities. McConaughey is an actual celebrity: one of the most famous human beings on the planet, the kind of star who warps gravity around him with his mere presence. By dint of his enormous profile, he would have required us all, for the first time, to take one of those novelty runs seriously. A head-to-head poll in September from the Dallas Morning News and UT-Tyler between McConaughey and Greg Abbott even found the star of How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days ahead of the incumbent by nine points.
But while McConaughey’s video answered the most pressing question (we now know proclamations from the governor’s mansion won’t all begin with the words “alright, alright, alright” in 2023!), it left open many others. Here are the questions we still have after watching McConaughey’s announcement that there would be no future announcement.
1. Where did those flags come from?
If you merely glanced at the thumbnail image of McConaughey, sitting at a desk flanked by the American flag on one side and the Texas flag on the other, and did not watch the video, it would have been reasonable to assume that he was, in fact, announcing his candidacy. (Or, perhaps, starring in a Saturday Night Live skit about Governor McConaughey.) The actor’s shaggy hair was pulled back in a tight ponytail, there was a sky-blue wall behind him, and a few stacks of books on a shelf loomed in the bottom of the frame. Did McConaughey go somewhere to film the video? Or did he just have those flags sitting around his house? Or did he send someone to bring them to him in order to look suitably gubernatorial? If so, why did he do that in order to announce his lack of interest in the office?
2. What about 2026?
McConaughey could have filmed the video from behind the wheel of his Lincoln, or on a beach wearing a shell necklace, but he put some work into looking serious, thoughtful, and—despite the substance of his announcement—very much like a politician. While the question of 2022 has been answered, is he considering running in 2026?
The announcement left the door open. “As a simple kid born in the little town of Uvalde, Texas, it never occurred to me that I would one day be considered for political leadership,” McConaughey said.” It’s a humbling and inspiring path to ponder. It is also a path that I am choosing not to take at this moment.”
For a guy who has been known to ramble, McConaughey is usually careful about the words he chooses to use, and is keen on keeping his options open. We saw that throughout his flirtation with a gubernatorial bid, and we’re still seeing it now.
3. What are his actual politics?
“Is Matthew McConaughey actually running for governor?” might have been the biggest question around his potential candidacy, but the most substantive one was about his actual political beliefs: where exactly did this guy stand on, um, pretty much anything?
While McConaughey spoke often to reporters about his political ambitions over the last year and decried our current political system as broken, he kept his cards characteristically close to his vest. When Kara Swisher of the New York Times asked McConaughey on her podcast what he meant by his statement that he was “measuring” a run, he declined to provide a real answer, instead saying, “I like to measure things before I partake, and you’ve got to partake before you’ve partook.” On the question of Texas’s new abortion law, he was honest but not exactly illuminating: “I’m not going to come out and tell you right now on this show, ‘Here’s where I stand on abortion.’ ” On voting rights, he was similarly direct and non-clarifying: “I don’t know enough about that to be able to discuss the details.”
And when pushed on where he fit on the political spectrum, he said his stance was “a commonsense, relational position with respect to the left and right.” I think I speak for all of us when I say, Man, same.
Those expecting to find out more about what sort of politics McConaughey actually holds did not get those answers from the announcement. He touted the virtues of the American dream, children, entrepreneurship, freedom, public service, and shared values, and explained that he has learned that “we have some problems we need to fix” and “divides that need healing.”
Now, what Matthew McConaughey believes about politics isn’t actually an important question if he’s not going to be a candidate for political office. But—see question two—we suspect that we will find ourselves hearing about the man’s potential political ambitions every time there’s a high-profile election in the state (“Senator McConaughey” has quite a ring to it!). Trying to parse his “for good things, opposed to bad things, unwilling to say what he thinks is which” approach to policy will remain exhausting.
4. Why was he wearing so many rings?
What’s up with that, Governor Goldfinger? I guess if you got ’em, flaunt ’em, but that’s a lot to carry around.