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February 21, 2014 4:44 PM Conservative Celebrity Unbound

By Ed Kilgore

Commenting on the angst regularly endured by conservatives over the outrageous remarks periodically made by their celebrity pals (most recently Ted Nugent with his description of the President of the United States as a “subhuman mongrel”) Think Progress’ Alyssa Rosenberg (soon to be recognized as one of the top popular culture critics of her generation when she moves to WaPo next month!) offers some advice. This part was especially interesting:

There’s no point in recruiting a celebrity spokesman if you’re going to end up constantly apologizing for horrible things they say. Ted Nugent may have a constituency-there’s a reason he remains on the National Rifle Association’s board-but he makes many more headlines for racial remarks about President Obama than for articulate arguments against gun regulation that convince mass audiences. If what you want from celebrities is an opportunity to double down on the worldview your constituents already share, that’s one thing. But if you want to use their public profile to draw in people who aren’t already acquainted with your message, then for goodness sakes, don’t be afraid to talk about what the most effective version of that message might look like! It’s important to remember that the entertainment industry gets just as much out of appearing engaged in politics and policy as politicians and policymakers do from recruiting them. So in keeping with my first piece of advice, it’s smart for conservatives who are dealing with celebrities to remember that they have messaging expertise and policy knowledge that’s genuinely valuable to their more-famous soon-to-be mouthpieces.

It is funny that for all their disdain for Hollywood and its role in destroying the moral fiber of youth, conservatives tend to go all gooey inside when handling their celebrities. The most famous example was Clint Eastwood at the 2012 GOP convention; it’s hard to imagine Democrats giving some actor a super-prime-time slot on the precious final night of a national convention and then letting him or her wander up on stage and say any damn thing that comes to mind. I guess that’s a particular perk of being a conservative celebrity.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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