Madonna Wants Me

Every candidate now needs a 'celebrity wrangler' -- matchmaker to the stars

| February 26, 2004

Cold, stiff Al Gore apparently didn't need to woo the hearts, and votes, of young women during his ill-fated presidential election campaign in 2000. He had Jon Bon Jovi to do it for him. As Joshua Green of The Atlantic writes in his article 'Madonna Wants Me,' the New Jersey rocker epitomized how celebrities can help a political campaign. 'In addition to hosting fundraisers and speaking on Gore's behalf, Bon Jovi energetically went to work soliciting money and involving his friends in the campaign. He traveled with little more than a guitar, often speeding ahead when Gore's tour bus was running late to hold a restless crowd with a spontaneous acoustic set.' America's youth, it seems, trust and identify more with the pop culture icons they see on MTV than they do with the run-of-the-mill personalities on CSPAN.

Since Bill Clinton pioneered the process in the 1990s in his bid to snare the MTV generation, politicians have been relying more and more on the endorsements of celebrities to get exposure in a culture that constantly moves on to the next sound bite. 'The courting of politically minded celebrities reflects a kind of cosmic convergence,' Green writes. He quotes Michael Feldman, a Democratic strategist: 'It's a way to break through to audiences who get their news in nontraditional ways. A lot of people don't watch the evening news, but they do watch Leno's monologue.' That's also because young people scare the hell out of many politicians, Green adds. Campaign issues more often than not reflect the views of older voters, since they are much more likely to go to the booths in November. And relying on the endorsements of celebrities alone is no surefire way to win an election. Green quotes Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia: 'The only people dim enough to vote for a candidate because Madonna endorsed them generally don't vote.'

Still, these unlikely marriages between celebrities and politicians are going strong. This year everyone in the running for the 2004 Democratic Party nomination joined the game. John Edwards bagged Ashton Kutcher and Dennis Hopper; John Kerry landed Jerry Seinfeld. And Green leads off his article with the unlikeliest of pairs -- the sex icon Madonna endorsing four-star general Wesley Clark!
-- Jacob Wheeler

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