Editorial: From politician to celebrity

What’s the difference between a celebrity and a politician?

While celebrities are open to tabloids criticizing wardrobe malfunctions or lack of fashion sense, politicians still wander into that limelight despite their positions of power in the country.

This week, Ann Romney is receiving a lot of criticism from Mormon bloggers for her alleged lack of temple undergarments. The criticism came after a Jay Leno appearance where she wore a tight scalloped shirt, short enough to be interesting and barely long enough to cover her sacred undergarments.

People in the political spotlight, even those who aren’t politicians, get ridiculed for trivial things. Who can forget the amount of discussion provoked by Michelle Obama’s wardrobe choices — H&M or J. Crew? Conservative pundits were quick to criticize the first lady’s fashion choice as a cheap ploy to appear relatable to voters. Liberal commentators were quick to use the difference in wardrobe to highlight differences in values and tastes. The New York Times’ Eric Wilson wrote that dresses similar to Mrs. Obama’s dress from the Democratic National Convention cost anywhere from $395 to $450, which “fits perfectly with the Democratic pitch to the middle class.” Ann Romney’s Oscar de la Renta dress, on the other hand, cost $1,990.

It’s just another way we fuel the political drama, as we turn politicians into celebrities. We intensify sentiments of competition within politics that may not have otherwise existed so powerfully. We isolate certain victories and failures, as if they are representative of the entire political picture. We create these dramas that make it seem like there are these secret, personal rivalries that go beyond politics.

There is another element of irony within politics. Some of us idolize our politicians as people who are above us, but we also crave to see how they are like us. That’s why Family Circle magazine began a first lady cookie contest in 1992.

Some of us reduce politicians to shameless liars, too immoral to be human and too dishonest to be taken seriously. And yet the prevalence of such contests — official or not — proves that we are eager to humanize them, turn them into less-than-perfect celebrities worthy of criticism from one side and fondness from the other.

Who can deny how talk-show hosts like Jay Leno or the women on “The View” ask mundane questions to make humans out of political rock stars?

It would appear that voters are inserting drama into a situation where none exists and they do so merely for the sake of entertainment. It is much easier to criticize a cookie contest, a wardrobe choice or an underwear issue than it is to address more serious issues of policy and economic choices. Voters almost push politicians into the status of celebrity in order to elevate to their level of education, fame and prestige.

Perhaps there is very little to separate politicians from celebrities. But if politicians are meant to represent everyone, specifically their constituency’s tastes, beliefs and values, whom are we really criticizing?


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