One of the few natural advantages a conservative Republican candidate enjoys in American politics is that he is not expected to be hip. When reporters ask the inevitable questions about a politician’s favorite musicians he is free to respond with the Ames Brothers or the Harmonicats or whatever cornball quartet he might favor, and he’s not obliged to speak in the latest slang. When asked about a favorite movie he can name something directed by John Ford, and he’s even free to admit that he doesn’t watch television at all.
The enduring stereotype of the conservative Republican as square spares him the embarrassment of passing fads, confers on him a reassuringly old-fashioned dignity, and frees him from the unpleasant necessity of currying favor with celebrities. Conversely, a liberal Democrat such as Barack Obama winds up posing for pictures with the likes of Dianna Agron, Zachary Quinto, Jessica Alba, and Jared Leto.
We had previously been blissfully unaware of these people’s existence, but according to the Hollywood Reporter they are among “two dozen of Hollywood’s hottest young stars” that the president recently schmoozed with, “urging them to involve themselves in his re-election campaign.” The summit meeting at the Beverly Hilton Hotel followed a marathon series of highly-publicized fund-raisers with such show biz glitterati as George Clooney and Will Smith, several appearances on the late-night talk shows that such celebrities frequent, numerous White House concerts featuring popular musicians, a snippet of Al Green-style singing at a public appearance, and constant similar efforts to demonstrate that Obama is still cool. All presidents have had dealings with celebrities, but none have made such a determined effort to associate themselves with the rich and famous crowd.
All the jet setting is partly for the money, as the entertainment industry is one of the few big businesses still generously donating to the campaign, but it appears that Obama also believes his Hollywood associations enhance his popular appeal. The star power clearly did much to win Obama the crucial support of young voters in ’08, and a smaller but still significant number of voters old enough to know better were probably swayed by it as well, so Obama apparently expects it to have the same effect a second time. He might even be right.
We doubt it, though. The past years of economic misery have left the electorate more serious and sober-minded than it was last time around, and the big-money fund-raisers full of pretty-but-vapid starlets now strike a discordant note. The same old resort to snob appeal — in full evidence in that Anna Wintour ad, so perfectly ridiculous that Obama’s opponents have been urging everyone to see it — seems more likely to inspire resentment in a country where snob appeal is no longer affordable, and runs headlong into Obama’s argument that his opponent is an out-of-touch rich guy who can’t empathize with regular folk.
– Bud Norman