Popular rapper Kanye West walked into the White House on Thursday Oct. 11 and gushed for ten minutes straight about his admiration for the current administration to a silent President Donald Trump and guest Jim Brown. This clip was recorded by the press and went viral instantaneously.
Unfortunately for West, most of America regards his monologue as a joke, and the meeting just a way for Trump to fulfill his “need for open adoration by famous people,” as CNN analyst Nia-Malika Henderson put it.
It is well known that before his presidency, Donald Trump was a celebrity. He hosted “The Apprentice” until 2015 and is famous for his apparent wealth and business experience.
The fame which predated Trump’s run for office factored into his electoral victory. People knew him already, and when it was time to vote, they could pick the face of a familiar television persona.
Trump wants the support of celebrities for the same reason. The more pop culture icons such as Kanye West and Jim Brown praise him, the more likely it is for their fans to become supporters of Trump.
Henderson argues that Trump brought West and Brown in for lunch so he could show off the “two famous black men who like him” instead of assessing the opinions of “real policy experts.”
Singer songwriter Taylor Swift also recently used her fame to promote her political views. In an Instagram post on Oct. 7, Swift denounced Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn and urged her fans to vote for Democratic legislators.
Swift’s encouragement to register to vote inspired a massive spike in registration, according to CNBC and Vote.org. In the first 24 hours after Swift’s post, as many as 65,000 people between 18 and 29 registered to vote at the website Swift cited.
Since celebrities have affected political decisions of the American population, one might wonder whether they should remain involved in politics. Celebrities do not have any more authority than the general public on political issues and, as Henderson said, famous people do not count as “real policy experts.”
Despite their lack of special experience, celebrities should comment on politics. The general public finds the entertainment industry more interesting than politics. In their free time, people are more likely to stalk their favorite artists’ Instagram accounts than study the policies of their congressional representation.
To keep people engaged with current political events, pop culture and media stars should continue to emphasize the importance of different national issues. If their popular voices express their politics, the fans of these individuals will likely pay attention and participate.
Even if people disagree with Swift or West’s politics, these stars are doing their part in keeping the larger audience interactive in the democratic system. Celebrity posts and speeches about politics remind us that anyone—including a famous person with no true authority on political issues—has the opportunity to take a stance on the system.