Hollywood celebrities campaigning and cavorting with national contenders is a staple of presidential politics. Frank Sinatra is remembered for backing Jack Kennedy. Paul Newman made waves for Hubert Humphrey in 1968. Warren Beatty was part of George McGovern's "Malibu Mafia" in 1972. Ted Kennedy used Carroll O'Connor, famous for playing Archie Bunker, to add to his lunch-bucket appeal in 1980.
Republicans, too, had their moments. Nixon had Hope; the Gipper had the Duke, Jimmy Stewart and others. But these were exceptions to the rule. For a generation this industry comprised of the very rich and very famous has been dominated by the Left. Some know whereof they speak, many are intellectual embarrassments, and all believe the Earth's axis revolves around the 90210 zip code.
In 1992, they flexed their muscle in a spectacular fashion, seemingly everywhere in support of the Man from Hope. The exercise would be repeated every four years thereafter; in the last go-round John Kerry lined up every Affleck and DiCaprio he could find.
Something else was happening within this industry. It has become increasingly radicalized, angry and ugly. The Alec Baldwins were taking to the airwaves to spew venom on anything conservative, while Jessica Lange held a press conference in Spain to denounce America, and Whoopi Goldberg took to the stage in New York to grab her crotch and make jokes about President "Bush."
So what's happening in The Year of the One, with all of Barack Obama's charismatic appeal to the liberal stars? You'd expect a mass levitation, so smitten are they by this man and his message. Instead, there's, relatively, an eerie silence.
Yes, Tinseltown titans have been furiously active with fundraising, but much of that is very hush-hush, behind closed doors, like Barbra Streisand's $9-million soiree in September. Babs kept off camera and kept her verbosity under lock and key.
A few have publicly endorsed him. Many recall how a cavalcade of cool celebrities and singers were featured in a popular YouTube video, but that was in the primary season, when Obama was still battling with Hillary Clinton for the liberal base in Hollywood.
On the other hand, many celebrities have made rapid motions backward to avoid being too closely associated with Obama. Take George Clooney, who publicly declared back in February that he told Obama he thought he was as inspirational as a Jack or Bobby Kennedy, but "I don't want to hurt him by saying that."
Then when it was rumored this summer that Clooney was offering Obama foreign-policy advice, Clooney furiously denied it in a statement: "I have never texted or emailed Sen. Obama. And I'll offer a million dollars to anyone who could prove otherwise. In fact, I've only talked to the senator once in the last year and a half on the phone I would hope that my friend John McCain would join me in condemning this kind of politics."
Translation wasn't necessary: Please don't ruin Obama by associating him with me.
The stars of rap music have been trying to keep their names and faces out of the Obama publicity as well. Vibe magazine lined up a list of hip-hoppers to express their opinions on Obama. Rapper Brad Jordan, who commercially goes by the name "Scarface," was blunt: "Hip hop needs to shut the f--- up right now to get Obama elected."
It appears Camp Obama has sent a message to Camp Hollywood. Keep it down, for now. The last thing he wants is for their radical agenda to be seen as his radical agenda.
Celebrities might also have been watching what happened to Oprah Winfrey, the billionaire Queen of Daytime, after she lent her whopping women's appeal on the campaign trail. She oozed over Obama as "The One," the untouchable leader of the new generation.
But her ratings declined, and her partisan activism eroded her approval ratings: Pollsters found her favorables fell from 74 to 55 percent. An AOL survey of 1.3 million Americans that found 46 percent said the daytime TV host who "made their day" was Ellen DeGeneres, while only 19 percent chose Oprah. Faced with all this, Winfrey retreated to a less activist role, foregoing her traditional role in the last several cycles of interviewing both party nominees on her show when the fall season kicked into gear.
The celebrity aversion to adding their glitzy names to the list of famous people associated with Barack Obama shows something obvious. Celebrities are out of touch with mainstream America, and they know it.
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