Celebrity Politicking

In many cases, it's a matter of credibility. ''Voters aren't used to celebrities giving political speeches so it's harder for them to be taken seriously in that role,'' Mr. West says. ''We see them as entertainers.''

Swing voters -- the concerts' target audience -- may be especially hard to win over with celebrity politicking. Polls show that the registered independents recoil at negative campaigning, and famous stars are often flashpoints for controversy.

The celebrities are often more caustic, or obscene, in their criticism, and conservatives rarely give them a pass. This year, the Bush-Cheney campaign has been particularly good at turning liberal partisan humor -- from the mouths of Howard Stern and Whoopi Goldberg -- into a talking point about the left's ''hate-filled'' mentality. In such an environment, Mr. Springsteen, Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder and other musicians will have to avoid comments that appeal to a raucous crowd of 50,000 in Cleveland but not to the million-plus viewers of Fox News.

There is also the issue of diminishing returns. The list of musicians involved with left-leaning politics this year might run the length of this page if space allowed. In concert, song or the press, punk, hip-hop and even traditional country stars like Merle Haggard have questioned Bush administration policies. Actors, directors and media moguls have been equally active.

What can be gained from yet another anti-Bush celebrity event? As they often do at the first sign of spoken stagecraft, won't fans just roll their eyes and demand that the artist shut up and play?

Creating a compelling mix of politics and music is very difficult to achieve, says Danny Goldberg, the chief executive of Artemis Records. ''The Bob Dylans of the world are rare,'' he says.

It's not as if the Republicans are above the fray. A long line of stars -- from Wilt Chamberlain, who campaigned for Richard Nixon in the late 60's, to Charlton Heston and Arnold Schwarzenegger -- have taken turns in the spotlight for the Republicans.


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There are, of course, Democrats who recognize the limitations of their famous volunteers; strategists privately admit that many stars are valuable fund-raisers but problematic persuaders.

The majority, however, seem to agree with Donna Brazile, Al Gore's former campaign manager, who predicts that the stars will ''rock people into their electoral groove.''

If she is wrong, don't expect the star train to continue. Residents of Dayton, Ohio, enjoy the Hollywood luster while you can.

Source : http://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/08/weekinreview/ideas-trends-beware-the-celebrity-on-the-campaign-trail.html

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