The University of Maine student newspaper since 1875
Wednesday, Oct. 7, 3:46 p.m.

Celebrity endorsements shouldn’t determine votes

Last week, Mitt Romney scored a tremendous victory by earning the endorsement of the Des Moines Register. Or, at least it would have been if this were the election of 1824. But gone are the days when the endorsement of a paper actually meant something. Today, most of the big names in news are owned by giant media conglomerates, not your friendly neighborhood printer.

Instead, welcome to the era of Hollywood political advocacy, where your favorite celebrities shamelessly stump for the candidate they think is like “cool” or whatever. Increasingly, candidates are relying less on actual messaging and more on how much attention big public names can draw. So much for the battlefield of ideas.

And the closer we get to Tuesday, the more prevalent the celebrity element becomes. This weekend, Obama campaigned with Jay-Z, Katy Perry and Bruce Springsteen. Although most celebrities tend to lean left, country musicians Kid Rock and Trace Adkins have lent their talent to some Romney rallies. And of course, how can you forget Clint Eastwood taking the Republican National Convention by storm with the empty chair?

Granted, Eastwood was pretty funny, but Republicans, as a party are we really that desperate? His speech was less than half an hour of the three-day event and from speculation about the “mystery guest” to analysis, completely monopolized media coverage, taking the focus away from the locus of the convention: nominating a candidate.

Now, isn’t one of the most vociferous complaints against the party system that citizen interests come second to the agenda of politicians and special interests?

The party conventions are the greatest opportunity for the electorate to ensure their voice is represented. This is done when delegates vote on the party platform, which helps set the agenda of the party for the next legislative cycle. Also, it’s a great opportunity for the party’s rising stars and foremost members to familiarize themselves with their constituents.

But when celebrity appearances and musical performances hijack the convention, these benefits are lost. And really, the logic behind it is shaky at best — I’m supposed to like a candidate because a singer whose talent I enjoy likes them? Isn’t that a little insulting, both to voters and the electoral process?

The federal government is bulky, removed from daily life and composed of individuals who frequently forget their first duty is to protect the civil liberties of their constituents. This is why voting is important to the democratic process — it’s how we as citizens rein in our representatives and make our voices heard.

That’s why the most important thing to keep in mind as you think about voting is not who your favorite actor or artist likes, nor what pundits like Glenn Beck or Chris Matthews have to say about a particular issue.

Because, as much as I love Glenn Beck’s fearlessness and perspective, he doesn’t speak for me. Only I’m capable of doing that. And no number of letters I write to my representatives speak quite as loudly or carry as much weight as my vote.

So please, no matter who you’re voting for, or what issues you’re supporting, or the reason you’ve picked to support them, hold nothing above the power of your own reason and the strength of your desires to make that decision. And be compelled by nothing more than your own desire to be a part of the process.

Politicians can make all the emotional appeals and outrageous accusations they wish in an attempt to compel you to vote. But in the end, as an individual, you’re accountable to no one but yourself.