Fans and Votes: The Role of Celebrities in Contemporary Politics

By Logan Rader, Political Columnist—

Kanye West, Taylor Swift, and Kim Kardashian have been in the news recently. That is, of course, no surprise.

Their valuable appearances have varied from E!News to ABC, but lately, they have found a home in the political realm, some directly in the Oval Office. Taylor Swift, a country artist-turned-pop star, made national headlines on Oct. 7 when a personal Instagram post went viral, extending to multiple political outlets.

In the post, she encouraged fellow citizens to go out and register to vote in preparation for the midterm elections taking place on Nov. 6. She also expresses personal contentions with Tennessee Senate-candidate Marsha Blackburn (R) and her voting record. Polls are still showing Blackburn leading Phil Bredesen (D), her opponent. One particular poll from the New York Times, conducted just after Swift’s post and over the span of four days, shows Blackburn leading by 14%. Swift is joined in the wave of urges toward democracy by Rihanna and several other renowned pop-culture icons.

Swift’s encouragement to participate in American democracy contains a hopeful sentiment, but celebrities’ influence reaches far and wide, and sometimes their followers can turn into voters. If Swift was on the ballot for 2020, this would naturally lead to real questions concerning popular influence held by superstars in the political arena – but she’s not.

Both halves of the Kardashian-West family, Kim and Kanye, have also been in the political spotlight recently. Kim Kardashian, a successful businesswoman and reality TV personality, met with the President to discuss prison reform and the release of a particular inmate on May 30. Kanye West, Kim’s husband and a hip-hop icon, also spoke to President Trump on Oct. 11 about several pertinent issues in the oval office surrounded by journalists and reporters including welfare, North Korean relations, and Trump’s “MAGA” as a symbol. This is not the first time he has made national headlines, as he met with Trump back in August of 2017. West also said if he ran for President, his campaign would take place in 2024 as not to challenge President Trump in 2020.

While yearning for the past is not always constructive, it is not incorrect to say that life experience is not analogous to political experience. Election to a political position is the same as the hiring process for any field of work. The statesmen and women who run for office endure a grueling year (or more) of a public interview laying party-platform planks, gathering support, and responding to national and local news with his/her relevant viewpoint as the focal point. After chosen through the electoral process, they represent the people within their political jurisdiction – with refinement if deemed necessary.

Political office is a job. It requires knowledge of the electoral system, a grasp on policymaking, and a host of other elements that are nearly impossible to gain without experience in the area of civil service. The notion that because they are successful outside of the political sphere does not necessarily translate to their performance in it. It’s the same as an economist attempting to design a 30-story high-rise apartment complex in an urban city.

Before his election, Donald Trump was both a businessman and widely-popular celebrity, and the national public saw him as the latter more often. Through the “Trump” brand and his hit-show, The Apprentice, his persona was amplified to millions of future supporters. His presidency, if elected again, may carry us into the 2020s, possibly followed by a world-famous rapper for another four years. Kanye’s lyrics inspire millions, and the artistic medium of music is made better because of his contribution to it. Politics is a different beast, however, and it is one that has a grip on every single American life.

Kyle Gentner

Kyle Gentner

Opinion Editor

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