Henry Brown '23
Last Wednesday, I was scrolling through Twitter when I stumbled upon Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s endorsement of Joe Biden. As a (reluctant) supporter of the former vice president, I was interested in why he was endorsing the ticket. However, immediately, the cringe factor was too unbearable – it’s an awkward Zoom format where they greet each other as if they’ve been best friends their whole life. You’ll know what I mean if you watch the first five seconds (linked below). The Rock starts off by endorsing Biden and Harris, citing how they’ve both led with “great compassion” and “soul.” He praises the California senator’s work as a state attorney and how Joe Biden believes one should “earn respect.” In response to this, the candidates explain that they will earn the trust of the American people by being honest and acknowledging that problems exist. Then the clip ends. I wasn’t the only one who was disheartened by this. There are six thousand more dislikes than likes and the comments are filled with people saying that this caused them to lose their support for The Rock. Apart from the cringe levels, why was there such a backlash?
As one comment reads, “this entire thing [looks] forced and fake.” Now, as menial as a single YouTube comment may be, it perfectly encapsulates a large part of the Biden campaign’s strategy. Instead of focusing on the support of labor unions and climate activists, the campaign seems much more interested in celebrity endorsements. It’s pretty obvious when his Instagram is filled with Taylor Swift baking Biden cookies and “get out the vote” videos by the beloved Michelle Obama. The world the Biden campaign wants to see is one where on Netflix it will say, “If you liked Fast & Furious, you might like Biden-Harris 2020.” Sure, the campaign needs all the help they can get to oust Donald Trump and a celebrity bandwagon might seem like an easy way to boost Biden’s chances. However, the more athletes, artists, and actors are “ridin’ with Biden,” the harder it will be to separate politics from entertainment come next year. Additionally, this election is almost entirely anti-Trump. Let’s face it – Joe Biden has an abysmal record. While in the Senate, he worked with Republicans to cut Social Security, he authored a crime bill that many say contributed to mass incarceration, and he sometimes confuses his wife and his sister (yes, it’s true). If an endorsement is tied as closely to a campaign as The Rock’s is, it makes it impossible for the celebrity to relate to the rationale of swing voters. He can’t just say that both options are bad to Joe Biden’s face – that’s just mean.
Dwayne Johnson also just isn’t your typical voter. He's a multi-millionaire, a wildly successful actor, and has name recognition everywhere. As such, he didn’t endorse Biden because of his health care policy or plans to support veterans. He endorsed Biden because of the former VP’s “compassion” and “experience.” While these may be admirable qualities in a president, they are nowhere near the top of the list in terms of concerns of the American people. Millions have lost their job-tied healthcare due to the pandemic. Police face little to no repercussions when they murder innocent Black people sleeping in their own beds. And we are on track to see more hurricanes than any season before. If the Biden campaign wants to actually win over voters with endorsements, celebrities should focus on the concerns of their fan bases rather than their own. Take Cardi B’s endorsement of Bernie Sanders last summer. Before the interview, the artist took to Instagram and asked her followers what they wanted to ask a Democratic candidate. Based on that, she made her best judgement as to which candidate best matches her fans’ interests, not her own. In their interview, they talked about the importance of education and reinvesting money from jails and police departments into the futures of disadvantaged children. They discussed the injustices of the healthcare system and how in no other developed country you have to pay thousands to give birth to a child. They also talk about the importance of young people in the political process. Cardi B didn’t endorse Bernie because of his experience or some other vapid platitude as The Rock did for Biden. She endorsed him because Bernie had solutions for the problems of her fans, even if she wouldn’t be affected herself.
Since the Bill of Rights was enacted in 1791, the United States has granted every citizen the right to speak their mind, especially when it comes to politics. However, with great power comes great responsibility, and celebrities need to use their voice wisely. The over-used Dwayne Johnson approach runs the risk of seeming too elite, almost like he said, “I don’t care about the petty little problems of the American people.” While this surely was not the intent, it gives off that vibe when the three neglected to discuss the cataclysmic events at hand, whether it’s the economy, climate change, or systemic racism. Celebrities should take Cardi B’s approach, sitting down with the candidate (or over a video conference) to discuss the issues that matter to their base of support. Whether you like the artist of “WAP” or not, at least she shows that she is looking out for the well-being of her fans, the ones who elevated her to stardom. The American people need to know someone has their back – it’s what we need now more than ever.
The Rock’s Endorsement: https://youtu.be/THR4l0MJLu4
Cardi B’s Endorsement: https://youtu.be/p1ubTsrZFBU
Wife-Sister Switcheroo: https://youtu.be/wacY29iMuUs
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