North Texas Daily

Celebrities are not to be trusted in politics

Celebrities are not to be trusted in politics

Celebrities are not to be trusted in politics
November 17
12:00 2020

Every election season spurs an onslaught of celebrity political endorsements for presidential candidates. These endorsements have become a highly anticipated feature of election cycles, with fans eagerly waiting for their patron celebrity to endorse a candidate every four years. 

There’s no doubt celebrity political endorsements are normal aspects in the months leading up to elections, but the pressure fans and the general public have placed upon them has become a concerning piece of the political puzzle known as the U.S. elections. 

Celebrities endorsing candidates for public office isn’t necessarily a new or bad thing, but it is awfully ironic considering the president-elect’s proposed tax plan for individuals making greater than $400,000, according to a report from USA Today

The rising need for celebrities to make political statements has also allowed celebrities to use their political endorsements to paint the pretty illusion of socially responsible and educated individuals when oftentimes, the endorsements are a form of good publicity, rather than a genuine statement. 

This isn’t to say there aren’t celebrities who genuinely support a candidate, but the internet’s need for outspoken public figures has blurred the lines between authentic support and hollow celebrity marketing during election cycles. 

Celebrities from every realm of prominence have tipped their hat to political candidates this year. Singer Taylor Swift endorsed Joe Biden in an interview for V Magazine and rapper Lil Wayne endorsed President Donald Trump via Twitter, in addition to the dozens of endorsements from A-list celebrities to Tik Tok stars. 

If a celebrity didn’t endorse a presidential candidate in the week leading up to Nov. 3, internet masses and fandoms would have bullied their patron celebrity into an endorsement.

This insistence of endorsement is the ironic by-product of the “don’t believe everything you see on the internet” quip our parents used to tell us. 

Rather than make our own judgments, the internet relies on a person, whom we can’t even predict if they’ve done any research of their own, to tell us who to vote for. 

As if our country wasn’t already a circus show, now we have to rely on celebrities to make our voting decisions rather than using our own judgment.

Yet, it isn’t the disregard toward making individual judgments that irk me the most. Given the millions of dollars in annual earnings and net worth for celebrities, it’s their support for candidates that plan to tax individuals above a certain tax bracket, let’s say the $400,000 mark, that doesn’t sit right with me. 

Firstly, a part of me is hopeful that celebrities who did endorse Democrat candidates or Joe Biden do support the administration’s tax plans to shorten the nation’s wealth inequality and uplift our education, healthcare and welfare systems. The cynic in me, however, says otherwise. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am sure there are celebrities who aren’t all that concerned about their top income tax rate being at 39.6 percent, but celebrity-dom is a lucrative business and people love their wealth in this business. 

Besides, celebrities are constantly trying to churn out good publicity and appear likable to the masses, so why not endorse a candidate who has already received dozens of celebrity endorsements and is popular with younger generations? 

I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if a celebrity did endorse Biden for the clout or to generate good publicity for themselves while not even supporting his platform. 

Do celebrities even influence politics during election cycles? Studies on the subject vary, with some research finding that celebrity endorsements can sway elections while others claim that celebrity endorsements actually deter voters from supporting a candidate. 

In 2008, Oprah Winfrey was credited with bringing in more than a million votes and fundraising $3 million for former President Barack Obama during the 2008 Democratic primaries, ironically dubbed the “Oprah effect”, according to a study from the University of Maryland

On the flip-side, celebrity endorsements had little to no effect on most voters’ decisions during the 2016 presidential race, according to a 2016 survey from Ohio

Regardless of whether they can influence election outcomes or not, celebrities do have a powerful place in our society. From trendsetting, crowdsourcing, raising awareness to simply purchasing items, their power has evolved and accumulated over the last two decades and the so-called “Oprah effect” is definitely still prevalent. 

Marketing celebrities as socially responsible, relatable individuals has become the industry standard and if a celebrity is on your screen, they’re most likely trying to sell some aspect of their image, personality or work to you. Whether it’s the mysterious-cool-girl on Instagram or the outspoken-bad-boy tweeting in support of a candidate, publicists and marketing teams are constantly pushing a brand image to generate positive ideas toward a celebrity.

No matter what the occupation, celebrities are always pushing these positive ideals and images to the masses. Remember, celebrities are consumer products — the business of celebrities and their images is a lucrative business that skyrockets every year. 

Of course, there are celebrities who are genuine in their social media posting or statements, but this is a business and generating good publicity is a key part of making money in the industry. 

In addition, the illusion of intimacy we feel toward a celebrity makes us feel like we personally know them and can trust them due to our close relationships with social media, according to a report from the BBC.  

This intimacy and kinship is an illusion, despite fandoms and the internet believing otherwise. 

Believe me, I would love to think I know Harry Styles’ values and how he would have hypothetically voted in the presidential race, but he is also a celebrity trying to sell me his rockstar image, album and tour tickets. There is, of course, a possibility that his endorsement was genuine, but we and celebrities play on two very different playing fields. 

They have the power and privilege to vote for whoever they want or not vote at all because, at the end of the day, their wealth and power protect them from the social, economic and political policies that greatly impact the ordinary person’s life. 

I sincerely hope all of those celebrity endorsements were genuine one way or another, but capitalism dictates every aspect of our lives in this country and my trust for those in the top tax bracket diminishes every day. 

Featured Illustration by Miranda Thomas

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Sarah Berg

Sarah Berg

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