So Republicans and independents and conservative Democrats abandoned the president even as the celebrities remained. This development is what has given us the discordant picture of an incumbent palling around with the rich and famous despite raising less money than his challenger in the month of May. The president’s alienation from the “masses” has accelerated the process of donor capture, whereby Obama becomes beholden to the interests of his remaining contributors. Take, for example, his evolution into the first gay president, which occurred less than 48 hours after powerful bundlers threatened to withhold funds over same-sex marriage. Or consider the president’s sudden appearance on a conference call to support the Senate’s Paycheck Fairness Act, which if passed would provide lucrative opportunities for Obama’s tort lawyer friends.
Nor is this merely an example of the president’s vanity. Celebrity’s effects on the character of our democracy are more corrosive still. Cynics must love the image of a president who mouths egalitarian slogans while shuttling back and forth from high-dollar fundraisers with George Clooney and Steven Spielberg. Ellen DeGeneres seems like a lovely, decent, and funny person, but America’s prospects and public discourse might be improved if the president tried to better understand the views of John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, and Paul Ryan instead. Can you imagine what nonsense is uttered over canapés and white wine at these high-priced dinners in the industry enclaves of New York City and Los Angeles? No wonder Obama’s rhetoric becomes more indistinguishable from the MSNBC comedy hours with each passing day.
The very idea of raffling off presidential dinners using celebrity videos is un-republican. The argument the video stars make is largely an argument from power: All the cool kids are supporting Obama, they imply, so you should, too.