Skip navigation.
The Texas Blue
Advancing Progressive Ideas

Celebrity Worship Could Decide Who Wins Presidency

It’s a battle of titans.

Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey are squaring off in Iowa, the former for his wife, Hillary, the latter for her chosen one, Barack Obama. They are so familiar to the American people that most simply refer to both by their first names (well, Democrats refer to Bill Clinton by his first name; Republicans have other monikers they prefer).

As the Washington Post states, “Both are legendary communicators, perhaps the two greatest in their generation.”

I’m intrigued by the battle but I find it to be a rather sad commentary on the state of American politics. Since when did winning the presidency come down to who could trot out the most star power?

Oh sure, celebrities have been involved in presidential politics for as long as anyone can remember: Rob Lowe was all over the 1988 Democratic convention (unfortunately for him, that’s not all he was all over), Frank Sinatra was a big Reagan backer, Bruce Springsteen sang for John Kerry, Loretta Lynn ate pork rinds with the first George Bush n the list goes on and on.

However, this seems quite different. In the past, celebrities helped garner press attention, build crowds and raise money, and while Bill and Oprah do all that for Hillary and Barack, they’re in a position to do one heck of a lot more. This battle is about who can use his or her extraordinary personal popularity most effectively to seriously impact the outcome of the election and given who they are and where we are as a society, they could actually pull it off.

Everyone knew that Bill would do whatever he could to help Hillary. He has shrewdly tried to cede the limelight to her in recent years but it’s next to impossible. He has grown bigger than life since departing the White House and since many long for the day when he was there; his wife naturally derives the benefit.

Obama has wisely asked whether Hillary should get so much credit for her husband’s accomplishments. It’s a fair question. Now here’s one for him: should people vote for Barack Obama simply because the most influential entertainer in the United States says they should?

When she recommends a book, it becomes a best seller overnight; when she rolls out her favorite products during the holiday season, stores can’t keep them in stock. Now, for the first time, she’s endorsing a presidential candidate and many are predicting a similar public reaction.

The Bill versus Oprah battle takes us way past the stage of “I think so-and-so candidate is cool because so-and-so celebrity hangs out with him.” This is celebrity saying “this is my woman;” “this is my man” - with a very real chance that throngs will follow their lead.

I find it more than a little frightening that our celebrity worship has reached this point. Thirty-two years ago, an unknown governor from Georgia went to Iowa, introduced himself to countless voters, gained majority support and won a caucus victory that would propel him to the presidency. Night, meet day.

But Iowa has always been an intriguing, hard-to-predict state, so maybe the voters there will reject both Bill and Oprah. Maybe no one wins the battle. Maybe Iowa saves us from ourselves.

(Originally published by Examiner Newspaper Group)

Syndicate content