Pop Culture Politics, strange bedfellows, indeed. They seem to be opposite forces that are uniting more than ever. This convergence is increasing because the way voters measure the trustworthiness of politicians is expanding and changing. More than ever voters need to be convinced a politician can relate to the problems of ordinary Americans. It seems quite reasonable to surmise this trend has taken root because income equality has grown completely out of control.
Voters always wanted to like their politicians, now however, they need to like them to the point that they would enjoy sitting down with them and having a beverage or two. If these politicians are perceived to hit this sweet spot then voters can allow themselves to start to feel like these pols will have their backs.
Evidence to support the importance of this change in what voters expect from their politicians can be found in the ascendancy of Presidents Obama and Clinton to the White House. Clinton gained much traction with voters especially younger ones when he went on the Arsenio Hall Show and played saxophone. President Obama made several appearances on talk shows during the 2008 presidential election process. Both used their easygoing charm and sense of humor to come across as likable and relatable to everyday Americans. In 2008 this trend hurt the McCain/Palin ticket. The biggest blow was from an SNL skit with Tina Fey as Sarah Palin. Tina simply repeated a number of idiotic and or nonsensical public statements made by Palin. Obama in 2008 and Clinton in 1992 both won in good part because of the youth and minority voters. To both these constituencies likable and relatable are of vital importance. On the Republican side in 2000, Dubya won in good part because he convinced voters he was a good ole boy from Texas. Whether this is true or not is another story.
Then of course there is the ever present social media. Relatively early in the social media phenomena, Obama announced Biden as his VP on twitter. Political strategists are finding that twitter is an effective way to get immediate feedback on new information being released.
The confluence of politics and pop culture got started back in the 60‘s when JFK went on The Tonight Show with Jack Paar. Politics and pop culture started to converge with consistency, in the 90’s when Jay Leno and David Letterman started to regularly book politicians on their talk shows.
Since politics has increasingly evolved into more theater of the absurd than not, heightening the absurd part for laughs, has injected some much needed sweetness into its bitter realities. Its not just young people who prefer to get their news hit from comedians likes Jon Stewart, Stephanie Miller, Bill Maher among others. Seasoned veterans of the political wars like myself need comedians like these to put an amusing spin on the news of the day to make more palatable. As recently as 2009 questions were asked about how un-presidential it was for Obama to appear with Jay Leno on his show. Now 6 years later the talk show circuit is a must for presidential candidates. Proof of this is that President Obama and other politicians have had a regular stream of appearances on the Letterman, Fallon, and Kimmel shows. It is obviously on with politics and the talk show circuit.
This enables them to focus on what and where their constituency is struggling with in order to understand the latest greatest news from politicians. Twitter also is an easy way for politicians and their people to interact with the citizens they are hopefully serving. Social media has also made it easier to give people easy access to phone numbers so they can call their elected officials and tell them which way they want them to vote on issues. The TPP and TPA controversy is a great example of this. Politics and pop culture at least on the surface are strange bedfellows but this hookup is obviously here to stay.