Oprah and Co, shut up – you're helping Trump
These entitled A-listers are not vote winners, and they've learnt nothing from the 2016 Hillary debacle
If you live in Georgia, Oprah might have turned up at your door urging you to vote against Trump in the build-up to the midterm elections. If you’re LA-based, it’s more likely to have been Jane Fonda.
The Barbra Streisand album you just bought (Walls) turned out to be a sonorous lament about presidential lies and a truth that’s “defiled every day”, Carole King has come out of retirement to “empower people” with her anti-Trump anthem (hastily adapted from an old song, One) and, if you switched on the telly across America, watched YouTube or Facebook Live, you’d have been confronted by a telethon panel of “non-partisan” actresses and comedians like Amy Schumer and Julia Louis-Dreyfus begging you to call in to a “celebrity phone bank” and make your voting pledge.
Meanwhile, Chelsea Handler thinks getting naked on Instagram might spur on abstainers, and Sally Field assured her followers on Twitter that all she really wants for her 72nd birthday today “is one great big gift” from the voting public.
The only great big gift anyone’s going to be getting if celebrities carry on with their cabaret of disapproval will be the one they hand Trump in 2020.
Because although the president lost the House but kept the Senate, this wasn’t a consequence of middle America being swayed by a bunch of one-percentiles intent on spreading their virtuous message, Jehovah’s Witness-style – and it will only ensure that Trump fans and the GOP redouble their efforts over the next two years.
That these A-listers have learnt nothing from the 2016 Hillary Clinton debacle shows the extent of their disconnect. Robert de Niro, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Demi Lovato, Beyoncé, Jay-Z and Bruce Springsteen, all came out hollering: “I’m with her.” And yet, it didn’t do the most experienced and qualified candidate any good.
Why? Because although the American public bought Perry’s records and loved De Niro’s films, they weren’t about to be told what to do by people they perceived to be both out of touch with real life and entitled – two of the most damaging allegations any modern politician can face.
And when they voted, it wasn’t for Trump, but against entitlement.
Today, neither celebrity nor celebrities are the vote winners they once were. We know this from 2016 and the fact that the biggest celebrity candidate turned out not to be a reality TV show host with curiously small hands but a stadium-filling husband and wife duo.
And the UK knows it from Brexit too: all those vocal A-list Remainers – from David Beckham to JK Rowling and Elton John – failed to convince the general public to follow their lead.
According to an American friend, it was only when their rock star president, Obama, “started making the move from politician to celebrity” that he really fell out of favour. Conversely, many Americans began warming to Trump when he started transitioning in the opposite direction. Not that he had much choice: when celebrity responses to his first, usually star-studded, White House Correspondents’ Dinner invitations came back ranging from “not in a million years” to “I’d rather core out my own entrails with a dessert spoon than be pictured alongside you in front of a large Christmas tree drenched in polymer snow”, Trump was forced to ditch the star-tastic hubris and reframe himself as a straight-talking, hard-bargaining businessman.
This has in fact been helpful, the only blip occurring when he invited his one remaining high-profile supporter – the apparently unstable rapper Kanye West – to the White House. After a filmed Oval Office visit that was beyond parody, Kim Kardashian’s husband announced on Twitter last week that he had been “used”, and would now be retiring from politics. Which was a bit like Angela Merkel announcing she wouldn’t be producing an autumn/winter collection this year.
I’m guessing Trump will avoid celebrities from now on. If only they could return the favour? But the Trump-bashing market is too lucrative and there is the possibility (on this subject, if not many others) that their involvement isn’t cynically motivated. Yes, I mean there may actually be genuine conviction. Which makes it all the more urgent that celebrities understand how counterproductive their “help” will be.
“If we carry hate, we’re the losers,” Fonda told The New Yorker magazine. “Let’s not enable him or her.” Oh, but Jane, you are.
– © Telegraph Media Group Limited