Not Just Reagan — Celebrities Are America’s Newest Politicians


On Oct. 9, the casts of “Veep” and “The West Wing” united for a virtual fundraiser for Wisconsin Democrats. (Courtesy of Twitter)

When referencing celebrity culture, The New York Times critic Amanda Hess stated, “The famous are ambassadors of the meritocracy; they represent the American pursuit of wealth through talent, charm and hard work.” I find her declaration to be indicative of the value that our society places upon fame. Considering the grip celebrity culture has on Americans, I believe they should not use their platforms to voice political views because they run the risk of distracting from the essence of a campaign and the message that politicians are trying to establish.

On Oct. 9, the casts of “Veep” and “The West Wing” united for a virtual fundraiser for Wisconsin Democrats. During the event, actors warned the audience that democracy may be at stake in the upcoming midterms. They emphasized the importance of investing in the future well-being of the U.S. and raised about $686,000 in the process.

“There is an anxiety, a great fear in the country, from coast to coast, in all levels of our society about what we are faced with and how much responsibility each one of us is meant to carry,” said Martin Sheen, who played President Jed Barlett on “The West Wing.” I strongly disagree with Sheen’s statement concerning an individual’s responsibility within society. It’s dangerous for celebrities to drift between the political spotlight and their sphere of influence as a famous person. They should be nonpartisan in the eyes of the public if they wish to retain their reputations and a positive public image.

To be fair, we can’t overlook celebrities’ place within the American social hierarchy. Over time, they have become more than role models and cultural icons. We regard stardom as the embodiment of power and prestige, whether or not we’d like to admit it. In a nationwide polling of 30,000 participants, 81% of people believe that celebrity opinions and endorsements influence public opinion. The main form of communication that these highly-regarded citizens use to sway the public is social media. Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and other platforms have become breeding grounds for the famous to spread their beliefs to large audiences. 

Celebrities such as Cardi B and Meghan Markle seem willing to put their reputations on the line for the sake of political support. These celebrities aren’t necessarily perfect political idols to look up to. In fact, in some ways they are just like the average citizen, with their own unique political opinions. Nonetheless, the rich and famous are taking more of an interest in politics with every passing year. 

For example, Taylor Swift endorsed Phil Bredesen, who is a Democratic candidate for Senate in her home state of Tennessee in 2018. On Oct. 7, 2018, she posted on Instagram with a caption stating, “I cannot support Marsha Blackburn. Her voting record in Congress appalls and terrifies me … [these] are not MY Tennessee values.” 

Swift pointedly turned off the comment section for that post, likely in an effort to reduce online backlash. Fast forward to 2020, and Swift tweeted that President Trump is “stoking the fires of white supremacy” during his presidency, claiming that she and her followers will band together to vote him out come the November elections. Celebrities like Swift have become increasingly opinionated as they have found their way into the political spotlight, from simply endorsing politicians to outright denouncing the former president in a heated Twitter exchange.

After researching the driving force behind celebrity political activism, the majority of celebrities seem to take an active stance in controversial debates or politics if it directly affects them or their budding social empire. Sure, leaning right or left may stir up controversy, but it also could turn an individual on the rise into a household name. We also have to acknowledge that speaking out on politics could have detrimental effects on these celebrities’ careers. A politically conscious narrative does not seem fitting for someone who’s trying to gain recognition and power within their industry. Perhaps they are truly motivated by more than a marketing ploy. It’s interesting to see celebrities carefully curate their careers over a lifetime, only to put it at risk for someone else’s political campaign. Celebrities should stick to the talent they are known for and leave campaigning to the politicians for fear of detracting attention from what really matters: the policies.

Olivia Teare, FCRH ’26, is an anthropology major and peace and justice studies and linguistics minor from Duxbury, M.A.