There have been so many debates and interviews and columns and profiles and polls, it’s hard to believe the election for president is still about 11 months away. Recently, celebrity endorsements have been making news, with Oprah Winfrey saying she would campaign for Barack Obama and Barbra Streisand making the not-so-stunning announcement that she was supporting Hillary Clinton.
There are reasons, of course, why candidates welcome such help. First, there’s the bonanza of free publicity. With so many names and faces vying for attention, what could be better than the burst of news such endorsements bring? There’s also the burst of money these high-profile celebs can bring in themselves and attract from others. Then there’s the extra attention and excitement these stars engender when they appear at a candidate’s political events. It’s far easier to attract a crowd in Des Moines if a big TV, movie or recording star is standing next to the politician.
Putting those obvious benefits aside, the question remains: do these endorsements really translate into votes? Does anyone decide which candidate to choose based on the recommendation of a TV talk show host or a singer/actress? If any group of citizens is uniquely unqualified to tell someone else how to vote, it’s those of us who live in the sheltered, privileged arena of celebrityhood. It’s one thing to buy an ab machine because Chuck Norris recommends it (he’s in good shape, isn’t he?) or a grill because George Foreman’s name is on it (he’s a great guy, so it must be a great grill!), but the idea of choosing the Leader of the Free World based on the advice of someone who lives in the cloistered world of stardom seems a bit loony to me.
This is America, and we celebrities have just as much right as anyone else to speak up about any issue. The problem is that more attention is paid to what we say because we’re well known. But why should that matter? O.J. Simpson is one of the world’s best-known celebrities, but I can’t imagine anyone following his lead in a voting booth.
I suppose anything that gets people engaged in the political process is a good thing, but the idea that a gold record, a top-ten TV show or an Oscar translates into some sort of political wisdom doesn’t make much sense to me. Trust me, one’s view of the world isn’t any clearer from the back seat of a limo.