Politics: Celebrity and Daring

by Judy Ferro

“Democrats would be better off if they ran Oprah or Tom Hanks … why don’t we run beloved people?…Why don’t we run somebody that the American people love and are really drawn to, and that are smart and have good politics and all that” (filmmaker Michael Moore on CNN’s Face the Nation).

“…Soft talk and weak positions do not win elections. Growing up my mother always preached, ‘A man who straddles a barbwire fence gets a sore crotch’…As an avowed progressive Democrat I’m getting off the fence because I am sore” (Driggs businessman and former U.S. Senate candidate Tom Sullivan).

Democrats are searching for a new paradigm. In the past Idaho Democratic leaders have worked to enlist political moderates of good moral standing engaged in law, business or education. With the party base limited to one-third of Idaho voters, leaders reasoned, we need candidates that can appeal to centrists across the board.

Centrist issues—infrastructure, public lands, safety net, quality public education—were relied on to attract people who did not ordinarily consider themselves Democrats.

It hasn’t worked great—that’s an understatement–but no other course promised better—not until this year’s national election.

No one is saying our current President-elect won because he was a “political moderate of good moral standing” or attracted voters who shared his centrist stand on the issues.

Trump is a celebrity who millions feel they have grown to know through his television appearances. His own anger on dozens of issues seemed to validate the anger that many of the voters are feeling.

Plans? Who needs to know details when voter and candidate are simpatico?

Pundits pointed out that the candidate changed his stand, sometimes from hour to hour, and made promises that appeared impossible to keep—like ending Obamacare on day one and building a wall.

Apparently, most Idaho voters didn’t care. In fact, polls suggest that they voted for Trump figuring he wouldn’t make such changes.   Before the election, Dan Jones & Associates found that 61 percent of Idahoans polled were willing to accept Obamacare funds to cover the 78,000 Idahoans who don’t have insurance today. It’s hard to believe they were giving their new president a mandate to cut off insurance of the 150,000 who gained coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

In a poll taken after the election, only 25% of Idahoans indicated they believe the United States will build a wall along the Mexican border. Twenty-five percent. Another 35 percent voted for Trump.

So some Democrats are speculating that celebrity or daring—or both—might give them a winning candidate.

Oprah Winfrey would be an obvious choice for president—unless Whoopi Goldberg challenged her. Both are known to millions of Americans and have strong opinions.

Idaho candidates are harder to come up with. Maybe Lou Dobbs for senator? He lived in Idaho once; we might lure him back. Of course, he might focus too much on issues.

Maybe multi-millionaire Shay Carl, formerly of Pocatello, would run for governor. Never heard of him? Well, nearly five million Americans have viewed his family life daily on his YouTube channel—that’s celebrity. A former DJ must have something to say about politics.

Canyon County has produced a lot of professional athletes, actors, musicians, and authors, but few with the day-in day-out exposure that a regular TV show allows. Maybe we could lure Dee Sarton or Mark Johnson across the Ada line?

Okay, it’s a crazy idea. But, at least, no one can say, “But we’ve tried THAT.”

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