Conservative populists are quick to indulge in sour-grapes celebrity-bashing, but they turn into hypocrites when the opportunity to rally around a Republican celebrity presents itself. The latest gossipy boomlet around having Forrest Gump and CSI star Gary Sinise serve as a next GOP savior (an idea first floated by The Daily Beast’s own Nicolle Wallace) is case in point. It’s an admission that the GOP needs not so much a rebranding as a facelift, and that personality often trumps policy, despite the McCain campaign’s “celebrity” ads. Following this line of logic could lead to a desperate candidate deployment of every center-right celebrity in existence, from Patricia Heaton to Tom Selleck to Kelsey Grammer to Bruce Willis. But any Democrat who tries to get in the arena will be immediately tarred as an inexperienced liberal elitist by talk radio.
The reality is that it takes courage to be a conservative in Hollywood—it can be a career-ending principled stand. But rather than demonizing popular culture and then wondering why they are unpopular among artists and young people, Republicans should play offense and make a case for their cultural relevance. There’s no reason that libertarians at least can’t make a compelling stand—independence is the essence of cool in America.