The Celebrity Appearence
To many Democratic activists, this was clearly a big weekend. The Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, largely seen as the most significant event in Iowa Democratic politics, save the caucuses themselves, drew thousands of party donors and activists to see the three main speakers: Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders. Well, at least that was the plan. Despite its reputation for being an energizer for the party base as well as a potential turning point for candidates, namely Obama, this year promised something different, something…bigger.
That increase in intensity largely came from one source, Katy Perry, who headlined Hillary Clinton’s rally, somehow relegating former president Bill Clinton to being a self-proclaimed warm-up act. Singing a four-song set and encouraging the youth in the audience of thousands of locals to vote, Perry clearly played into Hillary’s need to seem fun and attract young voters, a vital constituency for Democrats as well as a voting bloc that historically does not vote well. It clearly worked, with Hillary easily drawing the largest crowd to her rally/concert. Mick Norton, a freshman at Drake University, noted that he “came for Katy Perry, but I am definitely considering Hillary for president now.”
While Hillary was the only candidate to have a celebrity with the name recognition of an international pop star in attendance, it isn’t really anything new to have celebrities involved in politics. Whether it be through endorsements, participating in social media drives, or being a surrogate at events, celebrities have a long history of courting voters. Obama was particularly effective at this, with celebrity appearances like John Legend’s rally at the 2007 JJ Dinner and his endorsement from Oprah Winfrey, in addition to will.i.am’s “Yes We Can” video.
In fact, the Democratic Party as a whole seems to run the tables when it comes to celebrity endorsements and fundraisers, most notably at the last Democratic National Convention, which had celebrities such as Foo Fighters, Scarlet Johansson, Natalie Portman, and Kal Penn. That’s not to say Republicans don’t have their own celebrity support. Who could forget the Clint Eastwood at the last Republican National Convention? It was easily the most memorable moment from the entire event, potentially even the whole campaign.
When it comes to this election cycle, it is difficult for me to see celebrities playing less of a role. Perry helped bring out a key demographic and excite the democratic base, something Hillary continues to struggle with. There are even rumors of a Taylor Swift fundraiser in support of Clinton. The increasing cost of campaigns, along with celebrities’ inherent gifts of garnering support and money all but guarantee we will be seeing more of these events as we draw closer to election day.
Tunink is a sophomore political science and law, politics, and society major from Waukee, Iowa. He enjoys running on the Drake cross country team and binging on Netflix. Follow him on Twitter.