Celebrity Voters: They’re Just Like Us!

Do you believe in love after Trump? Cher wants you to vote Biden-Harris. What do we do with this information?
Do you believe in love after Trump? Cher wants you to vote Biden-Harris. What do we do with this information? Bryan Steffy/Getty
Election Day is here and millions of votes have already been cast. While we hope that a pandemic, racial unrest, a divided Supreme Court, unemployment and health care would all be fine reasons to be persuaded into casting your ballot, we also know that’s not always the case.

Enter: celebrities.

Big-named faces like The Rock, Lin Manuel Miranda and Cher have lent their influence by encouraging their fellow Americans to get out and vote, unsurprisingly, in support of a candidate from the left. Whether we find their unsolicited advice annoying (a lot of us do) or informative, the star power of celebrity endorsements is effective and still gives us that extra kick of patriotism.

Unless you consider Scott Baio an A-List actor, this year’s go-to endorsement for most stars is the Biden-Harris ticket. One notable exception is Kanye West, who is, of course, endorsing himself for president. At times, celebrity-backed endorsements have had massive political influence. Back in 2008, the queen of daytime TV, Oprah Winfrey, sent shockwaves through the beltway when she endorsed a still relatively unknown freshman senator named Barack Obama. Her endorsement is credited for Obama’s South Carolina primary win, which helped him gain his party’s nomination and thus, the presidency.

Thomas Marshall, a political science professor at UT Arlington, specializes in public opinion and elections. Marshall tells the Observer that Winfrey’s endorsement is the most notable example of a political celebrity endorsement. When it comes to encouraging people to vote, no matter their preference, celebrity outreach is more effective than one assumes, especially for certain demographics.

“I think they’re very helpful in terms of younger, less focused voters,” Marshall says.

“I think they’re very helpful in terms of younger, less focused voters.” – Thomas Marshall, a political science professor at UT Arlington, on celebrity endorsements

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That increased turnout might be exactly what Democrats need in today’s election, Marshall says.

Now, it often feels like the weight of celebrity endorsements and campaigning serves only to annoy the folks of the worldwide web who, at this point, already know who they're voting for. As influential as they are, stars can’t really expect us non-celebrities to be influenced by the words of the cast of The Avengers on climate change. We should be smart enough to make our own views, right?

No, turns out we still need a push, and if those who wish to reject it still head to the polls come Election Day, then so be it. The point still stands. Vote.

Last week, the cast of The West Wing reunited to recreate a stage play of one of their earlier episodes. In between takes, the cast would encourage viewers, who were likely fans of the show to begin with, to hit the voting booths. Now, it seems pretty obvious that any viewer of a political drama such as Aaron Sorkin’s West Wing would likely be open to voting and perhaps already voted. So what’s the point?

“We feel at a time like this, that risk of appearing obnoxious is too small to stay quiet if we can even get one new voter to vote,” said cast member Bradley Whitford at the beginning of the HBO Max special.

The Hollywood liberal has a point. The state of our country is bleak and the next few days are going to drastically change the next four years. Sure, Hamilton-themed Biden events and Cher concerts will likely have some people rolling their eyes and scoffing at the disconnect between entertainment and reality. But, these events likely won’t discourage anyone from voting, even if you hate Hamilton or Cher.

In Texas, early voting has already surpassed the entire 2016 turnout. That’s a clear indication of voters not tolerating the current state of our nation, regardless of how they think that state needs to be challenged. We should all gather behind the message of what this country can be by encouraging one another to get out and vote, even if Chachi agrees with that initial premise. Celebrities realizing their privilege and trying to motivate their fans to vote or support a candidate that’s, y’ know, decent, shouldn’t be deterred.

While we don’t need the stars of This Is Us to determine the future of the country, at this point we’ll take all the help we can to spread an urgent message: Go vote.
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Jacob Reyes is an arts and culture intern for the Dallas Observer. At his alma mater, the University of Texas at Arlington, Reyes was the life and entertainment editor for the student publication The Shorthorn. His passion for writing and reporting includes covering underrepresented communities in the arts.