Celebrity Endorsements of Political Candiates and Causes: Is This a New Thing?

There’s a lot of potential for Debating and for Pit-worthy rants inherent in this topic, so let’s all try NOT to go there.

Anyway, I noticed that a lot of celebrities were at the Democratic National Convention, the obvious implication being that, Hey, if P. Diddy supports the Democrats, then maybe P. Diddy’s fans will go out and vote for Democrats. Ditto for Ben Affleck, John Mellencamp, etc.

And let’s not forget Timothy Robbins, Barbara Streisand, Danny Glover, Don Henley, Moby, ad infinitum, who have all used their celebrity status to endorse a left-wing candidate or a political cause.

And of course, over on the right we’ve got, uh…

crickets chirping [sub]OK, so I know there are a few celebrities who promote right-wing causes or candidates. I just can’t think of any right now.[/sub]

So my General Question is this: Is this business of celebrities endorsing political causes a new thing? By “new,” I mean post-Vietnam.

Also, it’s obvious that politics and rock & roll go hand-in-hand, at least since the 60’s (and possibly before; I’m not a student of rock and I’m too young to have first-hand experience of anything pre mid-70’s). But what about this business of TV and movie actors endorsing candidates?

In short, were the DNC & GOP rolling out celebrities at their conventions in the 60’s & earlier? Were musicians trying to influence their listeners to adopt political platforms prior to the 60’s? Were Greta Garbo, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Humphrey Bogart & the like all endorsing candidates back in their day?

I’d say that prior to the 1960s, no one considered musicians and actors worth listening to. Back in the '50s, television led to recognizable faces being used to sell products, and as people got used to the idea, celebrities started to speak for themselves.

Oh, and do Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, and Charleton Heston ring a bell?

I didn’t say there weren’t any; just that I couldn’t think of any when I wrote the OP. And those three are a little past their prime, anyway.

During the 1960 campaign, Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack campaigned for John Kennedy, appeared at rallies, etc.

Part of the reason, of course, was that one of the Rat Pack (Peter Lawford) was married to Kennedy’s sister, but it was still pre-Vietnam, so it counts for the OP.

Re: Marilyn Monroe… was that a deliberate attempt at a joke?

Not especially. I just used her as an example of a pre-60’s actress.

Virgil wrote the Aeneid as an open endorsement of Augustus’ reign. Despite the fact that he had fought for the other side.

I think the endorsement thing is more along the lines of, “Hey, I’ve trust Celebrity X for a long time, so if he comes out for this candidate, maybe there’s some merit to voting this way.”

A good example is this week’s announcement that Bruce Springsteen will be participating in the “Vote for Change” tour, which is unabashedly trying to get Bush out of office in November. Considering that Springsteen has been decidedly nonpartisan and apolitical for the last 25+ years, for him to suddenly come out like this on one side of the election fence sends a message that this is something he feels very strongly about. Voters who’ve admired Bruce and identify with his beliefs may be persuaded as a result.

I don’t recall who did it, but I do remember a story about a radio comedian (maybe George Jessel) who took part in a radio broadcast againt Thomas Dewey. That would have put the endorsement in 1944 or 1948.

USAToday says the following:

This indicates endorsements were widespread during FDR’s presidency:

Will Rogers campaigned for Roosevelt and the New Deal.

“I’m not a member of an organized political party. I’m a Democrat.”