Who Are You Taking into the Voting Booth with You?

It’s well-known that the Democrats pick up all the cool celebrity endorsements. Obama can count on votes from George Clooney, Jay-Z, Robert De Niro, and Bruce Springsteen; while Mitt Romney has to rely on support from Kelsey Grammer, Jeff Foxworthy, Suzanne Somers, and Vanilla Ice. Celebrity endorsements are fairly meaningless, but what gives them at least some weight is the fact that the celebrity is typically well-known and well-respected. For example, no conservative supports the politics of Bruce Springsteen, but most Americans—regardless of political persuasion—respect Springsteen as an artist and recognize him as a genuine slice of Americana. Not sure the same can be said about Romney-endorser Wayne Newton.

Obama has been pulling out his big guns in the past couple weeks, getting support from people like Bill Clinton, Colin Powell, and Mayor Bloomberg, and even garnering some support from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. For some reason we have seen very few Romney surrogates on the campaign trail. This begs two questions: (1) Who are the people who have endorsed Romney; and (2) Why aren’t they appearing on the campaign trail with him?

Most of Romney’s endorsers fall into one of four groups:

1) The Ghosts of the Past. These are past Republican politicians who fell out of favor with the general public because their radical agendas and policies were either proven to be ineffective or exposed to be crazy. These people include: George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Trent Lott, Tom DeLay, etc. These politicians remind voters of the Republican Party’s failures and extremist positions, and for that reason are not welcome on the campaign trail.

2) The Embarrassing. Most of Romney’s celebrity endorsements are from B-list celebrities with zero credibility—in their respective fields or elsewhere. But because Romney endorsements from genuine celebrities are few and far between, many of his endorsements from sub-par celebrities have been front-page news. Obama received endorsements from such music icons as Paul Simon, Dave Matthews, James Taylor, Jack Johnson, and countless others, and they went largely unnoticed. However, when Meat Loaf endorsed Mitt Romney last week, it was front page news for several news cycles. Meat Loaf—a guy who has the social relevancy of a Garbage Pail Kid and who hasn’t had a hit record in almost two decades—was front page news for a fledgling Romney campaign. Similarly, I read a recent article highlighting a Romney endorsement by actress Patricia Heaton. For those of you not familiar with Heaton’s name, she was Raymond’s wife on the TV show, Everybody Loves Raymond. The Embarrassing list contains the names of pseudo-celebrities, people who have become national punch lines and would have a difficult time landing a spot on next season’s “Celebrity Survivor.” This list includes such names as Donald Trump, Hulk Hogan, Ted Nugent, Chuck Norris, Gary Busey, and Larry the Cable Guy. Although the people on this list may help turn out the White Trash vote, they do little to attract undecided voters and ultimately bring embarrassment to the Romney campaign, thus negating their presence at any Romney/Ryan rally.

3) The Religious Fundamentalists. The endorsers in this crowd love nothing more than a good wedge issue: abortion, gay marriage, contraception, abstinence-only education, and the completely made-up issue of religious freedoms coming under attack. The people on this list include Ralph Reed, Pat Robertson, Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, Jr., Bill Donahue, and various religious organizations. This group routinely reminds the rest of America how scary religion can be and how ugly religion becomes when combined with the political process, thus they are not welcome on the campaign trail.

4) The Bigots. This is the most controversial of the four categories, but any blog piece devoted to describing Romney’s supporters would be remiss to not mention the bigots who vote. Although Romney would never admit it, he knows he can count on racists, misogynists, and homophobes to turn out for him in droves on Election Day. I am by no means saying that all Republicans are bigots. The majority are not. But this is a contingency that certainly leans right. Nightline ran a piece last week on the Ku Klux Klan. In an interview with the Grand Dragon, Steven Howard, we learned that the Klan is strongly opposed to the Obama Presidency (surprise!) and predicted that if Obama wins re-election, White Americans will be rounded up and placed into concentration camps. Sounds like Romney found some support in Mississippi. For obvious reasons Mr. Howard and his ilk have not been invited to any Romney events.

Do Democrats get endorsements from oddball celebrities? Absolutely. No one on the left is bragging about picking up the endorsements of Ashton Kutcher, Miley Cyrus, or Sinbad. But the difference is that while Obama also picks up harmless endorsements from entertainers, he doesn’t have to worry about hiding shameful and embarrassing endorsements. For example, in the category of “Ghosts of the Past,” Romney has to hide from a litany of Republican names. Obama has the luxury of being able to embrace the Clintons, Al Gore, John Kerry, and Jimmy Carter. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are far less popular, but even they don’t have the toxicity of Bush, Cheney, Palin, and the other Republican counterparts.

In terms of endorsing organizations, Obama has his share of less than helpful endorsements. For example, endorsements from leftist groups like PETA, the Sierra Club, and the ACLU arguably hurt Obama’s attempts to appear moderate. However, while these groups certainly have liberal agendas, they do not carry near the negative imagery for most Americans as religious fundamentalists, the birther movement, the Tea Party extremists, or bigots.

When I vote, I like to remind myself of who I’m voting with. On Election Day, I will be voting with women, racial minorities, the LGBT community, the educated, the young, and the middle class…and yes, the tree-hugging hippies and the potheads. For Republican voters, they get to step into the voting booth with the political ghosts of the past, the embarrassing, the religious fundamentalists, and the bigots. If you are a Republican who does not fit into any of these categories, I encourage you to look at the people who also support your candidate and ask yourself if these fellow Romney supporters represent a brighter, more prosperous America. And do you feel slightly uncomfortable with the fact that when you pull the lever for Mr. Romney, you’re sharing a goal and an action with people with whom your candidate refuses to be seen? Grover Cleveland put it well, “A man is known by the company he keeps.” What company are you keeping in the voting booth on Tuesday?

– Nathan


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