Celebrity influences should hold no place in politics

Every four years, the Republican and Democratic parties hold national conventions for the purpose of nominating a candidate to run in the general presidential election. This nominee is usually the candidate who carried the most delegates from the various primaries and caucuses held in each respective state in the prior eight months leading to the convention. Nowadays, with the increasing focus on primary season by the candidates and the media, it is often known who will be the eventual victor come convention time. This year, with a Democratic incumbent already in office, almost all the attention has been on Mitt Romney’s inevitable nomination by the Republican Party.

These conventions also act as a launching pad where party officials and general party members come together to rally around the nominee and garner support for the party’s platform. Prominent individuals from all corners of society make appearances. These guests are often crowd pleasers; celebrities or performing artists who wish to show their support for the party or a special interest. Last week at the Republican National Convention in Tampa Bay, Kid Rock performed as well as a member of Brooks and Dunn. This week in Charlotte at the DNC, the Foo Fighters are slated to perform. With this in mind, it should be considered whether or not it is appropriate for celebrities who are influential to the electorate for reasons outside of the political realm should be allowed to be used by the parties as tools to garner support.

Of course, celebrities are protected by their First Amendment rights and should be allowed to voice their political opinions. However, celebrities who use their fame as means to their political ends are often influencing voters, not because their views or arguments are convincing, but because of their stature in society. By using their influence in this way, they are damaging the integrity of fair and honest elections because voters are inevitably swayed by those they admire in entertainment, whether it is their favorite actor or musician. That admiration can distort a person’s sense of responsibility as an informed voter.

As mentioned before, the parties know the effectiveness of this method of influence and use the conventions for this purpose. The most recent and notable example was last week in Tampa when a surprise appearance by Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood went horribly awry, backfiring on what was supposed to be a speech made by the respected “man’s man” of the silver screen.

For decades, Clint Eastwood portrayed characters that were bold, brazen and moral (all while kicking some serious ass, I might add.) Clint Eastwood was introduced at the RNC in front of a backdrop graphic of his portrait harkeningback to his days as a spaghetti Western hero, where his characters exuded courage and honesty in the face of opposition and corruption. These characteristics, not coincidentally, make for a strong candidate for the presidency. When Clint Eastwood speaks, people listen. However, the results were opposite of those intended. Clint Eastwood, 82, appeared spacey and confused during his extemporaneous 12 minute speech where he attempted to question an invisible Barack Obama sitting in a chair alongside the podium.

Ever since that debacle Thursday night, political commentators have exploded with ridicule aimed at Eastwood’s poor attempt at degrading Obama, which stole the show on a night where Mitt Romney gave his acceptance speech for the party’s nomination. But what if the opposite happened? What if Clint Eastwood, as many celebrities in his position have done before him, gave a fiery speech on the dangers of reelecting Barack Obama? Wouldn’t that in some ways be worse than what actually happened?
If his speech had been flawless there would assumingly be voters out there who would have voted on behalf of a man who arguably had no reason to be speaking at a national political convention. Celebrity should not be used as a political vehicle because it is a term synonymous with a form of influence entirely independent (though equally effective) of which is used in politics. For that matter, any method which implies a person should vote for reasons separate from their political, civic and moral self is inappropriate.