Throughout this election, a lot of celebrities have been outspoken about their preferred choice in the race. Many liberal actors and musicians have endorsed and even campaigned for Hillary Clinton, and before that many backed Bernie Sanders. Donald Trump has a considerably smaller celebrity fan club, but it does sport various former Celebrity Apprentice contestants as well as older Hollywood luminaries like Jon Voight, and D-listers like Scott Baio.
But there’s another group of celebrities out there -- those who have declared no preference in the presidential election. Esquire’s Matt Miller asked this week why so many major famous people -- specifically #Taylor Swift, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Mark Wahlberg, Bruno Mars, Sean “Diddy’ Combs and Cam Newton -- have not endorsed a candidate and stayed completely out of the presidential race.
If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice
This is deeply silly. There’s absolutely no reason for any of these people to feel obligated to publicly endorse a candidate or speak out in the election if they’d rather not do so. The implication of the piece is that all of these people must feel strongly one way or the other about the election, but are choosing not to stand up for what’s right because of fear of alienating fans or hurting their brands or careers.
But what if they’re not? What if Taylor Swift just plain isn’t interested in politics? What if Dwayne Johnson, who has spoken in the past about wanting to run for office, has strong views on the issues but isn’t particularly enthusiastic about anyone running this year? What if Mark Wahlberg believes the best way to channel his political energy is making four movies per year about real-life blue-collar heroes, rather than advocating for any particular candidate?
I don’t know that those explanations are true. But they’re more likely than the notion that these people are just plain gutless cowards, ducking some obligation that doesn’t actually exist.
The MJ Legacy
These same issues always dogged Michael Jordan. Throughout his playing career, the NBA superstar was often criticized for never speaking out on behalf of political causes. The implication was always that Jordan had deeply held political views, probably liberal ones, that he actively chose to keep to himself because he didn’t want to jeopardize his endorsement deals. “Republicans buy sneakers too,” Jordan once supposedly said, as his justification for refusing to campaign against Jesse Helms, the notoriously racist senator from his home state of North Carolina.
But I always doubted this. For one thing -- the “Republicans buy sneakers” comment is almost certainly apocryphal and there’s no record that he ever said it. But what if Jordan was truly, sincerely apolitical? What if politics was just something that never interested him? Should he have pretended to be something he’s not? (Just this year, Jordan made some political statements for the first time.)
In America, we have the right to speak out on political concerns. But we also have the right to not speak out. Let’s not forget that. #Election 2016