Regardless of your political stripes, Clint Eastwood’s speech last night begs the question: Should celebrities engage in public politics?
One can see the appeal of having celebrities sing your praises. Most Americans love celebrities and are eager to know “who” they are wearing and what they have to say on everything from pet care to politics. For decades, social movements have tried to channel celebrity appeal and attach their causes to the cultural elite. One of the savviest groups in the regard is People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which has a celebrity sponsor for every demographic — literally from boy bands to Alec Baldwin. Celebrities, in short, draw a crowd and can help a group make its point.
Last night, Republicans hoped to harness some star power of its own. While I will leave it to the pundits to argue whether Eastwood helped or hurt Republican appeal, clearly Eastwood’s speech illustrates the problems of celebrities – they have their own agenda and way of doing things. For Eastwood, that meant improvising a conversation with an invisible President Obama. Arguably, the simple message (Obama hasn’t delivered on his promises) could have been delivered more cogently. However, what do we as a culture expect from our celebrities when they try to talk politics? Why, for example, would they know more about politics than the average person?
Presumably, the only difference between Eastwood and the average person (beside the difference in paycheck) is that he has a platform.