Why Do Stars Shine Only On GOP?

Celebrity, Capitol, Politics, Political Office, Running, Celebrities CBS/AP

Celebrities party with the Democrats and run with the Republicans. In his latest Against the Grain commentary, CBSNews.com's Dick Meyer tries to figure out why.


Democrats have many reasons to be flipped out by Governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger, R- Calif. But by far the biggest is that they have no Arnold Schwarzenegger. Wesley Clark is no Terminator, to put it mildly.

The Democrats having been getting shellacked in the celebrity politician wars for decades. They have never cast a truly A-list celebitician into a starring role.

Maybe this helps explain why liberals, eggheads and Democrats have condemned the trespassing of non-professionals into politics so shrilly. They've never had one. They're jealous.

The partisan breakdown of famous people turning into famous politicians is actually pretty weird.

Starting with Dwight Eisenhower and epitomized by Ronald Reagan, the Republican list is long.

Hollywood provided not just Reagan and Schwarzennegger, but also Fred Thompson, Fred Grandy and, of course, Sonny Bono. Dennis Miller and Kelsey Grammer are now making noise about running for office, as Republicans. Sports brought in Jack Kemp, Steve Largent, J.C. Watts, Jim Bunning and Tom Osborne, the coach of the Nebraska football team who is now a congressman.

Jesse Ventura was an independent, but in a very Hunnish way.

The Democrats have, well, Sheila James Kuehl, who played Zelda Gilroy on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis a few years back, (forty, to be exact). She's a state senator in California now, reputed to be a good one, too.

Oh yeah, there's also Ben Jones who played Cooter on The Dukes of Hazard. He put in a couple terms in Congress.

The only legit Democratic stars were Bill Bradley and John Glenn. Neither, you may recall, became president despite their best efforts.

Hillary, arguably, can be considered a celebrity. And that's precisely why some Democrats want so badly for her to run. That, and revenge.

What the Democrats do have is a mother lode of celebrity kibitzers, hangers-on, wannabes, kingmakers, cause-stars and flirts.

The epitome of the Demo-celeb is Warren Beatty, the ultimate make-out artist when it comes to running for office. Beatty just wouldn't go all the way with that party. The Republicans, no fools, date guys they can score with.

And it's not that the Dems don't like their stars, they love them. Don't ever try to get in between Charles Schumer or Barbara Boxer and an actor in the Capitol unless you're wearing full padding.

Barbra is party royalty. Richard Dreyfus, Rob Reiner, Sean Penn, Steven Spielberg, Robert Redford, Martin Sheen and a huge supporting cast raise money, opine on issues, hire consultants and are, in essence, treated like politicians and power brokers.

But they don't put their necks on the chopping block. Republicans have found people who do – big time.

Arnold has proved that you can be a successful Republican vote-getter and party hero while still conforming to the positions necessary to do lunch and take meetings in Hollywood and New York – pro-choice, pro-environment, pro-gay rights, pro-gun laws. You can now expect more stars to shine in campaigns.

So, professor, what is it about the Democratic Party that is so discouraging to stars willing to run for office? Is it their lousy food? Are Democrats more inclined to protect job security for career politicians? Are their volunteers less pretty?

And what attracts celebrities to the Republican Party? Low taxes? Dennis Hastert? Better lapel pins?

I don't know. Maybe they should ask Dr. Phil for advice. Actually, he'd be a pretty good senator.

Dick Meyer, the Editorial Director of CBSNews.com, is based in Washington. For many years, he was a political and investigative producer for The CBS News Evening News With Dan Rather.

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Against the Grain

By Dick Meyer
  • Dick Meyer

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