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COMMENT: Can celebs swing the Democratic nomination?

Dylan Vox March 25, 2008
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Obama or Clinton? It seems to be a question at the forefront of every American Democrat’s mind going into to this year’s important Presidential election.

While the Republican Party has elected their representative as John McCain, the other side seems to be a struggle less about the ideals of the candidates, which are very similar, and more about a popularity contest.

Questions have been raised about who is more electable, who has more experience, and who has a better message.

In the past, with organisations like Rock the Vote, celebrities have encouraged the public to get out and vote, but this year, more than ever, they are weighing in on the decision and trying to sway the public to endorse one candidate over the other.

From Oprah Winfrey to Jack Nicholson, everyone seems to have an opinion about who is the better candidate, but does and should the public actually care what Hollywood thinks?

Oprah’s endorsement quickly began to shift the momentum of the race toward Obama’s camp.

The women and men who had issues with Clinton now had an alternative, and for women especially, Oprah’s choice may have decided the outcome of their vote.

A study conducted at Ohio State University suggested that men and women trust people based on different criteria.

“Men look for symbolic connections that you get from belonging to the same group, rather than for personal connections that women prefer,” stated Marilynn Brewer, co-author of the study and professor of psychology.

“The bottom line is that women tend to trust strangers if they think they are connected to that person in some extended friendship network.

“Their network is based on interpersonal relationships.”

Through her years as an iconic figure, Oprah has earned the trust of millions of Americans and perhaps her endorsement of a candidate turned the tide in his favour.

Obama began to earn the respect of the visionaries, the intellectuals, and the college-aged kids, while Clinton seems to hold string with the blue collar labourers, the poor and the older generation, who are more familiar and trusting of her stance in politics.

After Oprah’s endorsement, celebrities began to come out of the woodwork adding their names in support of both candidates.

With the help of director extraordinaire Rob Reiner, Jack Nicholson created an amusing internet video which supported Clinton as the party representative.

Barbra Steisand made public appearances for Clinton, stating, “Under her leadership, our country will regain its respect within the global community.

“She will prioritise issues of global climate change, universal health care and rebuilding a strong economy.

“After eight long years, the public will once again have faith in their government.”

Academy Award winners Ben Affleck and Matt Damon joined singer/songwriter John Legend in a video tribute to Obama called Yes We Can, based on his powerful message of change.

Saturday Night Live’s Tina Fey and Amy Poehler made headlines with their ‘Bitch is the new Black’ endorsement of Clinton, and many others declared their choice through fundraisers, speeches or through the news media.

It became the latest form of self-promotion for the celebrities, and the rest of America is left exhausted by the constant back and forth and the political mudslinging.

In the end, however, there is still a question about who is the best choice for the party.

Most likely, an outcome will not be determined until the Democratic convention is held in late August, and hopefully, the party will have to time to repair itself after such a divided contest.

Like on American Idol, celebrities are trying to sway the vote through their endorsements, but this time, the stakes are too high to leave it up to popularity.

For most celebrities, either way the candidate represents a great change and a better political future.

Oprah herself even stated in her interview: “I have great respect for Hillary Clinton. I think I’ve said this before and it’s true: Because I am for Barack does not mean I am against Hillary or anybody else.”

Just because Oprah can turn books into best-sellers or put companies out of business if she doesn’t like their products doesn’t mean she or any other celebrity can decide what is best for the country.

A young blogger on calling herself outlookeverything summed things up best, saying:

“Follow your own advice of doing research on the issues in choosing the next President of United States.

“Voting for the next President of the United States of America is too important to following a famous wealthy person endorsement.”

On the top rated show American Idol, audiences are swayed to vote for the next big music star by a panel of ‘expert’ judges.

While Simon Cowell offers controversial criticism, Randy Jackson cannot utter an intelligible sentence without adding some sort of slang colloquialism, and Paula Abdul is barely lucid.

Still, the three amigos have been effective at convincing the television watching audience to call in and cast their vote for questionable winners like Taylor Hicks and Jordin Sparks.

Given that many times the winners sell fewer albums than those eliminated from the show, the power to decide seems less about the public’s intentions and more about a popularity contest orchestrated by producers.

If you read blogs or news articles after the show airs, often times fans will take the judges criticisms as fact and vote accordingly.

While those likely to vote in a Presidential election are not made up of the same demographic as those who vote on Idol, the power of suggestion and the role celebrities play in the public’s decision presents an interesting conundrum.

Before the start of Presidential campaigning, Hillary Clinton was the clear front-runner for the Democratic Party.

With her eight years of experience in the Senate, and documented history on the national scene, Clinton had proven herself a tough and powerful leader.

Whether she was loved or hated, the public knew her past and what she stood for, and she’s garnered a certain amount of respect among the people.

With delegate wins in large states like Michigan and Florida, Clinton seemed to be the default choice for the nomination because she was viewed as a radical change from the current administration.

Voters knew where she stood on specific issues, and being married to popular former President Bill Clinton didn’t seem to hurt her approval ratings either.

But the ebb and flow of the race began to change when a new visionary began to claim the political landscape.

Barack Obama lost his first bid for Congress in 2000, but was elected in 2004 to the Senate after a powerful speech at the 2004 Democratic National convention pushed him into the limelight.

Creating a Presidential platform based on ending the war and fighting for the rights of all Americans, Obama began to gain ground with the American public as a beacon of hope and change.

That beacon began to burn brightest when talk show icon Oprah Winfrey decided to lend her support to Obama’s campaign.

Winfrey has never publicly supported any candidate before, and while she was a close friend to Bill Clinton during his administration, her support does not extend to his wife, Hillary Clinton, in her bid for the White House.

When asked on Larry King why she chose to stand up for Obama, Oprah replied, “I think that what he stands for, what he has proven that he can stand for, what he has shown was worth me going out on a limb for, and I haven’t done it in the past because I haven’t felt that anybody.

“I didn’t know anybody well enough to be able to say, ‘I believe in this person.'”

© 2008; All Rights Reserved.

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