Keep Celebrities Out of Politics

Annie Cohen, Staff Writer

Actress Susan Sarandon found herself mired in controversy after her opinions on the 2016 election became public. A staunch Bernie Sanders supporter, Sarandon intimated that if Bernie Sanders was not the nominee, Donald Trump might be better for Americans than Hillary Clinton because he “will bring the revolution.” Fellow actresses Jamie Lee Curtis and Debra Messing tweeted their opposition to this statement, with Messing questioning if Sarandon’s position would remain the same if she were poor, gay, Muslim or an immigrant. Messing’s comment raises a larger point — that celebrities, who by and large are a privileged class, need to be more thoughtful and nuanced when it comes to making political statements. After all, they are empowered by the wide audience they are able to address.

Celebrity endorsements of presidential candidates are not a new phenomenon. For countless elections, prominent actors, musicians and celebrities have used their position in the public sphere to rally support for their candidate of choice. Frank Sinatra vouched for John F. Kennedy while John Wayne backed Nixon and Oprah Winfrey endorsed Barack Obama. It’s unclear to what extent celebrity endorsements — or endorsements from any other prominent figure — influence voters, but given how many Americans strongly identify with their favorite celebrities, it stands to reason that celebrity endorsements do have some clout. But fans who vote based on the opinions of their favorite celebrities must bear the same responsibilities as them. To vote for someone simply because a favorite singer is voting for them is a vote cast in ignorance.

The rise of social media has given public figures a new platform to quickly and easily communicate with their fans and speak their minds. As a result, more celebrities than ever are weighing in on political issues and candidates. This only increases the undue political influence that celebrities wield. It doesn’t matter who Kirstie Alley is rooting for in the Wisconsin primary, because there really is no reason to assume that any given celebrity knows anything more about politics than the average person.

All things considered, the role that celebrities play in politics is a complicated one. After all, Bernie Sanders released an official list of artists and cultural leaders who support him, which reads as an effective Hollywood who’s-who. This list is a powerful tool for drawing in potential voters, perhaps because people identify with their favorite stars and wish to emulate them in any way they can, either consciously or subconsciously. However, voters would do well to consider their own views and not follow a glitzy crowd of detached celebrities. The line between politics and popular culture can be fine, but it must not be blurred.

Advertisement

Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 4 print edition. Email Annie Cohen at [email protected]

Advertisement

2 COMMENTS

  1. I do not disagree with the fact that anyone who votes based solely on a celebrity endorsement is irresponsible. However, I do call into question the notion that anyone who is of a “privileged” class (such as a celebrity) is incapable of speaking for those outside of said class. For instance, Ms. Sarandon might be of the mindset that it falls more in line to vote FOR someone (Sanders) than to vote AGAINST someone (Trump) but at the same time you cannot discredit someone who has been a lifetime activist for human rights simply because she may not be a part of the marginalized group in which she is fighting for. Civil rights and human rights issues have only made progress in our country when those outside of the marginalized class stand up with them and for them.

    Ms. Sarandon spent her time last Christmas assisting refugees in Greece, which has garnered her a Nobel Peace Prize nomination from the people of that country. She has spent nearly 5 decades of her life actively using her voice as a celebrity to give those without a voice a chance to be heard. Celebrity, comes with many benefits but it also has it’s disadvantages due to the rise in social media. Every move they make is documented, whether they choose to document it themselves or not. Do you find it a bit unfair that you would also expect those celebrities (who would also call themselves concerned and informed citizens) to remain silent for the sake of influencing their following? I would bet that many celebrities, such as Ms. Sarandon have been presented with way more information than the average citizen when it comes to matters of social injustice and the issues surrounding politics because those suffering and affected by injustice turn to them for help to promote their message and their cause.

    At the end of the day, voters must make their own decisions on who they want to support in any election, but to disregard the opinions of a celebrity simply because they appear to live a life of privilege in unfair. Most celebrities weren’t always a part of the upper class. Many came from humble beginnings and it is that very reason that they choose to speak out for others who haven’t been as fortunate as them.

  2. Well written piece and I really understand where you’re coming from. I respectfully disagree however. Susan Sarandon did NOT say she would vote for Trump simply because he would “bring the revolution.” The context in which she spoke was making a catty remark that Trump is so AWFUL that if we had such a horrible president MAYBE people would FINALLY realize that we need to end the bullshit in Washington and it would force the REVOLUTION that Bernie is trying to push for. Watch the interview again if you missed this.

    It amazes me the spin from mainstream media that journalists will runaway with in order to shift an ever so subtle push for Hillary Clinton. However I don’t blame you for not knowing that, mainstream narrative is far reaching and very convincing. Susan Sarandon pointed out that based on Hillary’s corruption she wasn’t sure if she would vote for her YET. In good conscience she couldn’t quite make that decision out loud YET. She is obviously not wanting to answer the question because she is still hoping for Bernie and doesn’t want to entertain the notion of “HAVING” to vote for a candidate she disapproves of and once again fall into the trap of voting for the best of the worst.

    Understanding people takes the gift of focus and clarity and that requires stripping away personal bias. I’m assuming you might be voting for Hillary. At least you’re voting so more power to you. I’m afraid at this very moment your piece missed the mark on Susan Sarandon. Moreover should celebrities not have their own say on issues if they have influence and believe in a worthy cause? These are important times. If you yourself were famous and believed so incredibly strong about something and knew that there was great risk in expressing yourself (because believe it or not, people are very opinionated when it comes to politics, obviously, and someone can actually dislike a celebrity they onced loved because of their political tilt) you still are really just a human being after all who wants to fight for something and not just entertain all the time.

    I think its up to fans to think for themselves and make a decision. I guarantee you I’m not voting for Bernie cause of Susan Sarandon. I’m voting for him because I’m aware that the false narrative that he can’t get anything done in office when he’s already done the impossible with his campaign is just propaganda and doesn’t hold ground when you look through history at galvanizing figures who have changed their communities, i.e. Martin Luther King Jr., FDR, Nelson Mandela, etc. I’m just glad Susan Sarandon gets that we need a real change in Washington and she is savvy to Clinton corruption. Pointing out her corruption isn’t always a republican smear, there is legit reason to worry about Hillary’s ties to wall street, the fossil fuel industry, corporate written trade agreements, Iraq War Profiteering, private prisons, flip flopping on social issues, sketchy donations for Clinton Foundation, and series of other cover ups and actual scandals that other establishment politicians would probably find themselves in too given her success. Politicians are dirty players and sadly Clinton has had her hand in a lot power play moves that have been extraordinary in their selfishness and have caused damage to some communities. Bernie is a once in a lifetime candidate given these realities and the climate of money flooded politics.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here