Celebrities are coming out for their candidates


Richard Nixon refused makeup during his televised debate with John F. Kennedy; Michael Dukakis put on a military helmet and allowed himself to be photographed in an M1 Abrams tank; Bill Clinton played his saxophone on The Arsenio Hall Show — every presidential election has its public opinion turning point.

When political analysts look back at 2008, I don’t think it’s far-fetched to say that the moment they will pinpoint as the permanent shift in public opinion toward Barack Obama is the moment Tina Fey stood behind a mock podium and said, “I can see Russia from my house!”

Tina Fey’s uncanny portrayal of Sarah Palin has not only ramped up Saturday Night Live‘s ratings, it has become the most emailed, most shared, most quoted thing in this presidential election. It also has a direct, negative effect on support for Palin among independents, according to a recent poll. My grandpa recited a bit of one of the skits for me at lunch last week, causing my grandma to double over in a fit of giggles. (They’re voting Obama.)

We could talk for hours about why the sketches are so effective, but an equally fair question is: Should Tina Fey, or any celebrity for that matter, publicly endorse a political candidate? And if they do, should their endorsements matter?

From attending fundraisers and rallies to making personal donations to speaking out on talk shows, plenty of famous women have contributed their voices to this year’s election.

On the Barack Obama side, you’ve got Margaret Cho, Wanda Sykes, Lily Tomlin, Rosie O’Donnell and Jodie Foster. And those are just the lesbians and bisexuals. There’s also Oprah and Jennifer Aniston and Scarlett Johansson and Ashley Judd and Kate Walsh, and on and on and on and on. Even Betty White is an Obama supporter: last week on The Craig Ferguson Show, she called Sarah Palin “one crazy b—h” and said Obama was “a fine piece of man.”

The McCain celebrity endorsement club isn’t quite as crowded, but it’s still there. Back in February, Angie Harmon told US Weekly, “”There are a lot more people in L.A. voting for McCain than you think. We have an underground Republican Party!” It includes The Hills star Heidi Montag and, of course, The View‘s Elisabeth Hasselbeck who, on last week’s show, bet her blond highlights that John McCain is not a crook.

You can get your election coverage from any magazine on the news stand these days, depending on your level of involvement. Last week, you could get US Weekly, speculating on which candidate Angelina Jolie supports (Barack Obama, obviously). Or you could get Newsweek, calling Sarah Palin just “one of the folks” (You betcha!).

I am in deep and abiding love with Tina Fey’s political skits on Saturday Night Live, because they effortlessly and hilariously resonate with voters, helping shine light on the true absurdity of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate. But in some recessed part of my brain, I realize that if I were a Republican, I would think they were categorically unfair, because, like it or not, they have changed the way many voters think about John McCain.

When Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were facing off in the Democratic primaries, I repeatedly set my Facebook status to: “StuntDouble thinks Barack Obama and the media need to get an effing room already!” Because I was a big Hillary supporter. I still feel occasional pangs of loss because Clinton will not be president, but I am an Obama supporter now; his favor with media and celebrities doesn’t bother me so much.

Do you think shows like Saturday Night Live have a responsibility to take a balanced approach to satirizing candidates? Do celebrity endorsements matter to you? What do you think of the Fey-effect in this year’s presidential race?

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