I've been thinking a lot lately about whether the highly visible efforts by just about every entertainer and famous person in the country to defeat Bush has a net negative or positive effect on Kerry's chances. I'm still not sure how I feel about all the celebrity visibility. On one hand, if I were a celebrity I'd be leveraging every last ounce of my fame to help Kerry win, but on the other hand I'm sympathetic to the general populist anti-Hollywood feeling that is prevalent in much of the country. Thomas Frank, in a piece in the LA Times earlier this week, argues that the celebrities are not helping: The Democrats are today a party that has trouble rallying its historical working-class constituency, losing more and more of its base every four years to some novel culture-war issue invented by the wily Republicans: blasphemous art, Ten Commandments monuments in courthouses, the dire threat of gay marriage. Behind their success stands a stereotype, a vision of liberals as an elite, a collection of snobs alternately permissive and moralistic, an upper class that believes it is more sophisticated and tasteful than average people. … What the stars' Democratic allegiance illustrates for this segment of the public is not the glamour of Democratic candidates but their repulsiveness and shallowness and insufferable moral superiority; their distance from the historical Democratic base of average Americans. For them, Hollywood's superficial leftism only validates the ludicrous claims of the Republicans to be the party of the common man. I tend to agree with this analysis, which is why I was completely startled to read this article that claims the GOP is reaching out to Republican celebrities to play a role at the RNC. This strikes me as totally bizarre. Does anybody vote based on the presence of celebrities? I'm inclined to think that Frank is right, people will vote against elitis Hollywood, but not for a given candidate just because some actor endorses him. But the GOP isn't stupid and if they're trying to recruit celebrities for high visibility roles at the RNC, I'd imagine they have some access to polling data or focus groups or something that suggests it's worth it. I'd love to get my hands on that data.
Christopher Hayes is the host of MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes. He is an editor at large at the Nation and a former senior editor of In These Times.