Celebrity endorsement is always a bit “hit and miss”, isn’t it?
How many times have you seen a big name pimping themselves out in a sponsorship deal that has left you cringing with embarrassment for them? How many times have the deals gone sour because of events in the celeb’s personal life (think of Tiger Woods, or Kate Moss, for example).
The unpredictability of the endorsement effect is magnified in politics. Will you still respect a celeb if they are exhorting you to vote for a party you despise? What if it’s a person you don’t like, asking you to support your own choice? What if it’s someone you do actually rate, but they’re soliciting your vote in an unpalatable, tasteless way?
I remember my 13-year-old self turning his nose up at the late Kenny Everett when, supporting the Thatcher government in 1983, he said “We’re going to kick Michael Foot’s walking stick away!” (Mr Foot, also now deceased, was the leader of the Labour Party at the time).
On the other hand, when Sir Michael Caine supported the Conservatives in 2010, it didn’t bother me at all. I’m a fan of this prolific actor and will continue to enjoy his work, despite his unfortunate choice of allegiance. But then, I was never persuaded by Sir Michael to vote for the worst government in living memory. I wonder how many moviegoers were.
All of the above brings me to the announcement by Clint Eastwood that he is backing Mitt Romney’s US presidential election campaign.
Mr Romney’s plans involve tax cuts for the very rich, but he won’t offset their effect by closing other tax loopholes or creating other revenue streams. He’ll use the increased debt this creates as an excuse to strip social security and medicare down to nothing.
Put yourself in Mr Eastwood’s position. He’s a very rich man, and would probably benefit from Romney’s planned tax cuts. He has served as Republican mayor of the town of Carmel, in California. Also, he’s on record as saying that Barack Obama is a “greenhorn”, without the necessary experience to run the US government.
That’s fine for him. Now ask yourself: What effect will his endorsement of Romney have on an Eastwood fan of meagre means, whose life is enhanced by social security and medicare and who would suffer if these were dismantled?
They’d probably vote for Romney because their idol told them to do it – and then, if he gets in, repent at leisure.