Given this profitable history of GOP-celebrity partnership, it seems surprising that Republicans largely reject Hollywood today. In fact, a mere five years ago, the party’s Growth and Opportunity Project Report — its autopsy of Mitt Romney’s 2012 loss — once again recommended establishing a “RNC Celebrity Task Force” to cultivate links to the entertainment industry as a “way to attract younger voters.”
But Republican electoral strategy has dramatically changed over time. Hollywood’s glamour and the ability of celebrities to attract attention has been a tool for both parties to expand their coalitions and encourage turnout. But Republicans no longer seem interested in expanding their coalition and reaching new voters. Instead, their strategy seems centered upon stoking the fury of a white, predominately rural base.
This base represents a minority of Americans, which is generally bad news for parties relying on democratic elections. But it is geographically well located, especially for controlling the Senate, and the GOP uses a variety of tactics like gerrymandering and voter suppression to limit participation rather than expand it. In that context, demagoguing Hollywood is far more effective at energizing these voters, who already feel scorned by a liberal elite embodied by snobbish celebrities. When this minority stops producing victories, Republicans’ attitude toward celebrities will likely change as well.