Home Opinion OPINION: Democrats Discuss ー The impact of influencers

OPINION: Democrats Discuss ー The impact of influencers

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Chloe Ruffennach is a junior studying strategic communications. She is the communications director for Ohio University College Democrats. The following article reflects the opinion and views of the author and does not present the thoughts of the Ohio University College Democrats. 

This is a submitted column, and please note that these views and opinions do not reflect those of The New Political. 

Everyone is given a platform on social media, and this does not discount celebrities. Nearly every social media user follows a list of influencers and actively seeks out their favorite celebrity’s content. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that when these public figures express their opinions it can influence or persuade their audience.

Celebrity activism is not uncommon, and one could make the argument that it is more frequent in the era of President Donald Trump. People like Mark Hamill and Sarah Silverman dedicate most of their tweets to criticizing the Trump administration’s policies. Celebrities appear to utilize Twitter as a place to openly express their disapproval about politics, particularly toward Trump.

These celebrities can also endorse candidates through these posts while attempting to persuade their audience to do the same. One of the most universally recognized celebrities, Beyoncé, posted several pictures and a video of her wearing a hat endorsing former presidential and senatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke on the day of the 2018 midterms. Though she received criticism for the late endorsement afterward and she was later blamed by some for O’Rourke’s Senate loss, her activism and political stance was clear. More recently, Cardi B has seemed to endorse Sen. Bernie Sanders for president by appearing in an interview with him and mentioning him on her social media.

It’s important to ask what effect these posts have on voters. Many social media users are quick to say that these posts have no influence when it comes to their vote, yet some evidence speaks to the contrary. 

After Taylor Swift, who was notoriously silent about politics, posted on Instagram and encouraged her followers to register to vote, voter registration increased by 169,000 in 48 hours. She also posted criticisms about former Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s voting record in Congress. However, Blackburn did win the Senate race, so it seems that Swift’s activism was impactful only to a certain extent.

Some are quick to criticize celebrities using their platform for politics altogether. Journalist Laura Ingraham was notoriously quick to tell LeBron James to “shut up and dribble” after he had openly expressed his disapproval toward Trump’s governing performance in an interview. 

The idea that celebrities should hold their tongue in the face of corruption is laughable, though. The assumption that a person should lose their political voice due to their status is a terrifyingly un-American belief.

While some believe that politics should purely be saved for those without celebrity status, it is important to note that celebrities maintain the ability to achieve political tasks that can be beneficial to all. 

Despite Swift’s failure to persuade voters to her cause, it seems that her Instagram post about politics resulted in the registration of several young voters in Tennessee. Regardless of political stance, this was a significantly beneficial act. 

Ariana Grande also made it a point to directly register voters at her concerts with the goal of encouraging young people to exercise their right to vote. Kim Kardashian was also able to meet with Trump in June of last year and successfully persuaded him to release Alice Marie Johnson, who was imprisoned for a life sentence for a low-level drug offense. 

These celebrities are given the rare ability to use their voice to directly insight positive political change. When harnessed for good, celebrities using their status to accomplish tasks that are nationally beneficial is an incredible feat.

Celebrities and their social media activities do have an impact on the average American’s opinions. The influences might be subtle or subconscious, but the activism of these public figures can make alterations throughout the nation. This exercise in their freedom of speech should be something that should be encouraged and criticized by the masses accordingly.

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