Celebrities in politics


Betelhem Alemu, Staff Writer

Many celebrities have come forward with their political aspirations. We know by now that if you have the money, agenda—in a way where you know what your goal is—and motivation to involve yourself in politics any way you want, you can. However, what made celebrities go from endorsing politicians to running their campaigns and pursuing politics themselves? The initial answer would seem to be so that they can boost their reputation and influence. However, a counter to that argument is the fact that wealthy and highly influential A-list celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Kanye West, (now known as Ye) also happen to involve themselves in politics when they did not need a career boost. So, what is this pattern of celebrities running as political candidates, and is it detrimental to society? Why is it happening? And do their careers help their campaign or vice versa? 

There used to be a clear line between politics and Hollywood, but as the years go on, the line progressively blurs. And as the people’s votes in politicians seem to drop, celebrities begin to share their political opinions, and their advocacy for political issues seem to rise. Celebrities who plan on running are able to easily switch from their Hollywood persona to a political figure with their experience in campaigning for running politicians. Their influence in politics is nothing new; it dates back to Elvis Presley endorsing Richard Nixon, or recently, when Olivia Rodrigo spoke at the White House and met with President Joe Biden to promote the importance of COVID vaccinations. Almost every candidate had celebrity endorsements. Since they have the power to bring important issues to light and coax their audiences, involving themselves in politics does not seem like an absurd idea.  

In some cases like Donald Trump, Kanye West, and Caitlyn Jenner, their celebrity career gave them a considerable advantage with their campaign. Money and fundraising, which is a common hurdle in politics, is not an issue when thinking about campaign budgets and marketing when one is a celebrity. They also have a way to connect to people—since they already have a following and a strong presence on social media—and are able to promote their campaigns easily.  Kanye West (now known as Ye)—a famous rapper—announced his decision to run for the 2020 Presidential election through Twitter. He urged his followers to vote for him, and with little campaigning and no backing from a major political party, he garnered over 60,000 votes. That is the power and effect social media and fame have in politics.  During his presidency, Ronald Reagan was asked if he had learned something from being an actor and if it had been useful for his presidency. He responded by saying that he was shocked that anyone could survive being in office without having an acting career. His statements support the belief that the experience of celebrities can assist them in their political careers. 

Donald Trump is the perfect example of a figure in Hollywood who used his political power to his advantage. His celebrity career consisted of hosting reality TV shows and making acting appearances. Throughout his whole campaign, Trump stated multiple times that one of his major goals is to lower the corporate tax rate and offer large tax cuts. This, in turn, would help his corporation not pay the appropriate amount of taxes that they should be. Allowing him to make more money and promote and immerse himself more in the Hollywood industry. 

One can claim that celebrities are now voicing their interests in politics and controversial issues to better the way they are perceived. There is a pattern occurring because celebrities are following the suit of other successful celebrities and taking initiatives by running for office to help create changes on issues they care about. Still, this pattern is commonly seen as performative activism rather than showing genuine passion. After the 2016 presidential election, there has been a rise of celebrities speaking up about political and world issues to show where they stand. While some genuinely care about the cause, it’s evident that the intentions of other celebrities are only for the benefit of themselves. For example, Kanye West (Ye) states that he ran for president as a service to god.  Celebrities also have the time and resources to run a successful campaign. According to an article about how celebrity candidates are irresistible to the people, celebrities seem more charismatic and ‘normal’ to us than experienced politicians, which is why some voters lean towards them more. What would stop them from running for office when they have a high chance of being a viable opponent?  

Another can argue that celebrities in politics are most likely detrimental to society because their lack of experience and skill in government would cause them to be unsuitable for the job. Relating to the people and making decisions based on their needs might be challenging because of their privilege or lack of understanding.  Their intent behind running is also another reason why people say we should be wary of them being involved in politics. If they are running for a selfish reason and not for the betterment of people, it would be very damaging to society if a person of a higher authority is only thinking about themself. 

Ultimately, it is not right to judge or to oppose a celebrity running simply because they are famous and affluent. However, it is worthwhile to question why they are running and not be blinded by their reputation or overlook their intentions.