Thursday, August 05, 2004
The prominence of Ben Affleck on the campaign trail and the newly announced rock stars for change tour (Springsteen, REM, etc., etc.) has got me thinking about the role that celebrities are playing in the Democratic party, and politics generally. Clearly I would prefer it if celebrity didn't matter, but regrettably it does. We live in a society obsessed with fame, with movie stars talking politics and politicians treated like movie stars. What is interesting is that the majority of artists are on the left, and have been throughout this century. This phenomenon is due to a number of factors: the social liberalism of the arts, the dislike of tradition and authority, the generally low esteem in which artists have been held (they are feted even while they are loathed).
But how does this pro-Democratic alignment affect liberal prospects? While they do provide a certain glitz, attracting larger crowds and more media attention, the open participation of Hollywood in Democratic politics is probably a net minus. The right works furiously to divert populist anger from corporations and the rich to any other subject. One of their handiest weapons has been the "cultural elitism" of Democrats. Working class people envy and disapprove of movie and rock stars even while they worship them. By giving them such a prominent position in liberal politics, we make it far easier for conservatives to claim we are out of touch with mainstream values. It isn't fair, but that has never really mattered to our opponents.
I don't think we need to lock Rob Reiner and Glenn Close in the basement. I just think we need to get off the Convention stage.
Until the movie stars are running for office, that is.
P.S. Site Meter has just been added to this page, so I'll finally get some idea of how many people are reading my blog. Here's hoping!