Defame your politicians’ fame

Published On:
Thursday, September 18, 2008
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John McCain’s campaign no longer needs to employ the likes of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. The Republicans have found their own celebrity, complete with jokes about small dogs and lipstick.

Yes, the tables have turned. The Republicans have joined the Democrats, with each now having their publicity virgins to sacrifice to the press.

After Barack Obama at long last reassured the nervous public that he is not, in fact, an America-damning terrorist, a drill-happy, gun-toting, former beauty queen, dog-sledded onto the cover of Newsweek as the Republican Party’s new trophy-Vice.

But little does Gov. Sarah Palin know that a country fed its nightly dose of “Desperate Housewives” won’t blindly accept her as a small-town girl with a taste for windfall tax on gas profits — I hope.

Since her debut as McCain’s running mate, the press has gone all out with features on such things as Palin’s daughter being the new Jamie Lynn Spears and her husband’s subpoena to dish on his wife’s illegal abuse of power as governor. Regardless of what they have talked about, the GOP’s Alaskan celebrity has been far more visible than McCain himself.

It may just be an election trend, but all of a sudden celebrity attention has drifted far past the sphere of actors and eating disorders and has fully infiltrated the world of politics.

We can only hope Capitol Hill won’t be the new Hollywood, dishing out news of senators getting shotgun weddings and making their use of narcotics public on C-SPAN.

Is this a sign, for better or for worse, our celebrity-obsessed nation is evolving?

Just imagine the best-case scenario: A nation where fame-thirsting mothers once drove their daughters to eating disorders, now putting those same darlings in tears over failing to become effective agents of change in our world.

And the worst: Where we are now.

Celebrity politicians are not what they were in the glory days. Back then we had Kennedy, the Democratic nominee who captured the nation’s hearts and votes with his charismatic personality, his dream of an age of American heroism.

Kennedy, as described by his wife Jackie in “The Kennedy Obsession” by John Hellman, was a man more preoccupied with the stuff of legends than the fine details of the political process. She said, “You must think of him as this little boy, sick so much of the time, reading in bed, reading history, reading the Knights of the Round Table, reading Marlborough.”

Hellman points out Kennedy soon became alike to a fictional character in American history. His image was a product — a role he played — and the mass media assisted, happily churning out stories about his intriguing personality not to inform the public, but to entertain.

A similar, yet worse, brand of this focus on personality has emerged today. The media has produced characters rather than candidates. Palin has been reduced to her deer-hunting housewife image, and Obama has been reduced to a misfit idealist obsessed with “change.”

Though this typecasting makes it easier for “Saturday Night Live” to perform a skit about the nominees, this election should go beyond the nature of their celebrity.

When deciding your next president, stick to the issues.

Melissa will probably never be stereotyped as a gun-slinging, rattlesnake-shooting vice-presidential candidate from Arizona, and she’s OK with that. She can be reached at melissa.silva@asu.edu.