Mas­sive celebrity back­ing failed to lift Clin­ton cam­paign

Kuwait Times - - WEEKENDER -

One les­son from the 2016 cam­paign: Celebri­ties guar­an­tee at­ten­tion, but they don’t en­sure votes. Few pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates at­tracted as much A-list sup­port as did for­mer first lady and Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton. But ral­lies in Ohio with LeBron James, Bey­once and Jay Z did not prevent Repub­li­can ri­val and Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump from pre­vail­ing in a state Pres­i­dent Barack Obama had won twice. A joy­ous elec­tion eve gath­er­ing in Philadel­phia, fea­tur­ing a per­for­mance by Bruce Spring­steen, did not prevent Clin­ton from los­ing Pennsylvania, where no Repub­li­can had won since 1988.

Mean­while, Trump’s no­table guests in the days lead­ing up to his stun­ning vic­tory in­cluded rocker Ted Nu­gent, whose last top 20 al­bum came out in 1980. The Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion fea­tured ap­pear­ances by Meryl Streep, Katy Perry, Lena Dun­ham and many oth­ers. One of Trump’s few celebrity en­dorsers at the Repub­li­can gath­er­ing was Scott Baio of “Happy Days” fame. And it didn’t seem to mat­ter.

“The over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of vot­ers know who they’re go­ing to vote for long be­fore the elec­tion and don’t de­cide based on celebrity en­dorse­ments,” says Jon Wiener, a his­tory pro­fes­sor at the University of Cal­i­for­nia, Irvine whose books in­clude “How We For­got The Cold War” and “Gimme Some Truth: The John Len­non FBI Files.” “I know it’s hard to be­lieve but there were more pow­er­ful po­lit­i­cal forces at work in Pennsylvania than Bruce Spring­steen.”

On Thurs­day, celebri­ties them­selves were still ab­sorb­ing the elec­tion’s re­sults. Ac­tress Kyra Sedg­wick, a self-de­scribed “lefty, lib­eral, liv­ing in New York and Cal­i­for­nia,” said she yearned to visit “Trump coun­try” and find “what binds us to­gether.” Singer and stage ac­tress Deb­o­rah Cox said she was liv­ing through “a real sober­ing mo­ment.” “It’s a tough time. It’s a real sober­ing mo­ment, I think, for the coun­try,” she said.

Trump, the for­mer “Ap­pren­tice” star and the can­di­date with the long­est back­ground in en­ter­tain­ment since Ron­ald Rea­gan, ap­par­ently only needed his own en­dorse­ment. Dur­ing the cam­paign he seemed to spend more time fight­ing celebri­ties than be­ing praised by them. He con­tin­ued his feud with Rosie O’Don­nell, had harsh words for Jay Z and de­fied the wishes of the Rolling Stones, Adele and other artists by play­ing their mu­sic at his cam­paign ap­pear­ances.

But the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try’s dis­taste for Trump may also have contributed to his im­age as an out­sider shunned by the coun­try’s elite. “I’m here all by my­self,” he said dur­ing a rally in Her­shey, Pennsylvania. “Just me, no gui­tar, no pi­ano, no noth­ing.”

Wiener says that get­ting sup­port from a celebrity like Bey­once can “help cre­ate excitement - and head­lines” but is less im­por­tant than in­spir­ing peo­ple to vote. In Cleve­land’s Cuya­hoga County, for in­stance, turnout ap­peared to be down sig­nif­i­cantly from 2012, with pre­lim­i­nary re­sults show­ing Clin­ton re­ceiv­ing some 60,000 fewer votes than Obama did four years ear­lier.

The ef­fec­tive­ness of celebrity campaigners has var­ied over the past few decades. Frank Si­na­tra’s sup­port of John F. Kennedy in 1960 has of­ten been cred­ited for help­ing the Demo­crat in a race in which he nar­rowly de­feated Richard Nixon. Years later, Si­na­tra’s shift to the Repub­li­can Party and his back­ing of Rea­gan seemed to stand for mil­lions of Democrats who also had turned more conservative. In 2008, Oprah Win­frey’s en­thu­si­asm for Obama led The New York Times edi­to­rial board to de­clare that she de­served a “good chunk of credit” for his suc­cess by boost­ing his stand­ing in “mid­dle Amer­ica.”

But A-lis­ters can do lit­tle for can­di­dates the pub­lic isn’t in the mood for elect­ing. Ge­orge McGovern’s chal­lenge to Pres­i­dent Richard Nixon in 1972 was avidly sup­ported by many of the biggest names in mu­sic, movies and lit­er­a­ture, in­clud­ing John Len­non, Bar­bra Streisand, Jack Ni­chol­son, Paul Si­mon and War­ren Beatty. One Madi­son Square Gar­den show fea­tured Tina Turner and Mama Cass. Nixon of­fi­cials were so concerned about a planned Len­non protest tour that it at­tempted to have the ex-Bea­tle de­ported. In the end, McGovern was de­feated in a land­slide.

— AP

In this Nov 4, 2016 file photo, Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton, cen­ter, ap­pears on stage with artists Jay Z, right, and Bey­once dur­ing a free con­cert at the Wol­stein Cen­ter in Cleve­land.

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