Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
19 July 2016updated 09 Sep 2021 11:13am

Donald Trump has set a star-studded trap for Hillary Clinton

Trump has promised a style of showbiz politics Clinton can't match. 

By Fred Heffer

Did Donald Trump anticipate having to fulfil a campaign promise so soon? After calling the 2012 Republican convention “the most boring I’ve ever seen”, he promised that his own nomination would involve “more showbiz”. While nobody could call him a bigot for saying that, difficulties did arise quickly.

A look at any media would reveal that most actors and singers aren’t well-disposed to the GOP, Trump or no Trump. Of the well-known entertainers who identify as conservatives, not all of them were willing to be seen with the nominee. Arnold Schwarzenegger (who spoke for Bush in 2004) was a supporter of John Kasich. Trump’s final opponent. Mickey Rourke, a Ben Carson fan, referred to Trump as a “big mouthed bitch bully”. With Clint Eastwood presumably unavailable to interrogate a chair again, the screen celebrities chosen to promote Donald Trump’s candidacy were…Scott Baio and Antonio Sabato Jr.

Whether or not Trump attracts celebrity fans may seem like a small point, compared to his ability to spark violence at rallies or his success at pushing plans for a Muslim ban into mainstream political rhetoric. But it matters, because Trump is harnessing celebrity culture itself. 

Trump has long been making guest appearances in films (Home Alone 2, Zoolander) and WWE Wrestling. But more recently, in queuing up to mock his policies, hair and fingers, countless entertainers are inadvertently contributing to Donald’s own notorious celebrity. Johnny Depp  has impersonated him. The magazine Slate has even dedicated an (albeit extremely critical) podcast to him. 

The Democrats may have had the first black POTUS and be preparing the first female one, but the Republicans have a true A-lister as their nominee. As an actor, he puts Ronald Reagan in the shade. 

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

As a celebrity, Trump can make celebrities out of whoever he chooses, and give them good or bad press along the way. Who will remember Jeb Bush for his Floridian governorship, and not the character assassination Trump subjected him to? Trump’s latest endeavour is to be the PR man for a group of Benghazi veterans, who are critical of his rival, Hillary Clinton. They have tried to tell their story before, through the book and film 13 Hours, but it was Trump that opened the door to the national stage.  

Content from our partners
Are we there yet with electric cars? The EV story – with Wejo
Sherif Tawfik: The Middle East and Africa are ready to lead on the climate
Harnessing breakthrough thinking

Trump has even built up a celebrity aura, where commentators attribute just about any gains in polls to his Art of the Deal strategising.

Not only should this worry the Democratic party, but it has a celebrity problem of its own.

The expectation was for Democrat celebrities to line up behind Hillary Clinton, but not all are doing so, and then, not quietly. Susan Sarandon refused to transfer her allegiance and claimed that she would be “more dangerous” than Trump in terms of foreign policy. Perhaps, in a media industry that exists to make money, actors are learning that disparaging half their audience is not good for the box office.  

Bernie Sanders himself pointed out the “obscene” way in which his opponent palled around with the Hollywood elite, away from middle-class Americans. Earning the approval of the rich and famous had drawbacks if it loses you the arguments on trade and jobs. 

Clinton is famous, but her fame does not have that stardust quality that makes it celebrity, and rubbing shoulders with the glitterati won’t be enough. If she wants the showbiz touch, she will need to find it within herself. 

Topics in this article :