Hollywood stars shine for Barack Obama
Clint Eastwood’s oddball GOP convention monologue didn’t sit well, but Democrats proved they know how to exploit their unabashed love affair with Hollywood.
The beautiful triumvirate of Scarlett Johansson, Kerry Washington and Eva Longoria thrilled the Charlotte, North Carolina, convention crowd on Thursday with their looks and words. Mary J. Blige and James Taylor provided the tunes. And Mad Men star Jon Hamm looked happy just to be part of the crowd.
There wasn’t an empty seat in the house as delegates cheered the display of star power.
It’s routine for Republicans to mock liberal Hollywood and its money as pushovers for Democrats, and the party as a sucker for the entertainment industry’s glamour. Senator John McCain tried to tag Obama himself as a lightweight star during their 2008 contest for the White House.
This campaign has produced an ad from a pro-GOP super PAC that proclaims, “Four years ago, America elected the biggest celebrity in the world”, and shows Obama dancing with Ellen DeGeneres and singing an Al Green song.
The Democratic response on the convention’s final night: If you’ve got ’em, flaunt ’em.
Johansson took the stage to share her childhood delight at stepping inside a polling booth with her mother – “a registered Democrat” – and helping her mum to vote, whether that was legal or not.
“This last election, I finally got to punch those buttons for real. For me! I was so excited, I wore my ‘I voted’ pin the whole day. It was my finest accessory,” said the 27-year-old actress.
Washington gave a sterner speech.
“Look, I get it, right: Whether it’s school, work, family, we’ve all got a lot on our minds,” she told the crowd. “We’ve all heard people say, ‘I’m just too busy to think about politics.’ But here’s the thing: You may not be thinking about politics, but politics is thinking about you.”
Longoria, a co-chair for Obama’s re-election campaign, drew a contrast between the 99 per cent and the 1 per cent, using herself as a before-and-after example.
She warned that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney would raise taxes on middle-class families to “cut his own, and mine”.
“That’s not who we are as a nation, and here’s why: the Eva Longoria who worked at Wendy’s flipping burgers – she needed a tax break. But the Eva Longoria who works on movie sets does not,” said the former Desperate Housewives star.
An impish Taylor brought a prop, a chair to invoke the image of Eastwood’s rambling lecture last week to an empty chair that, for Eastwood, contained an invisible Obama.
“It’s an empty chair, it makes you nervous,” the musician said as he took the stage. “Don’t worry – I’m going to sit on it. I’m not going to talk to it.”
Taylor did as promised, then delivered Carolina in My Mind and other upbeat songs along with his campaign endorsement.
“I’m an old white guy, and I love Barack Obama,” he said.
Democrats, who revel in being the party of diversity, made sure that was true of the music as well. Blige drew delegate cheers when she urged them to “make it a family affair and get it crunk for President Obama for four more years”, then rocked the room with her cover of U2’s One and her hit, Dance 4 Me.