For those in media still obsessing about Donald Trump‘s lack of star power at his inauguration on January 20th, here’s a telling story from the campaign to look back on.
The date was November 5, just three days before the election. Almost all pundits and pollsters told us this would be a cakewalk for Hillary Clintonjust like ’08 was for Barack Obama. And so there she was in Cleveland with Beyonce and Jay-Z. Reports from the media in attendance were as giddy as they were thorough.
Beyonce takes the stage in Cleveland. First song: Formation. Outfit: pantsuit (of course) pic.twitter.com/bzEs3u93Aj
— Monica Alba (@albamonica) November 5, 2016
Two nights later, Clinton had Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi perform at a huge rally in Philadelphia. Millennials — you may recall — were lukewarm towards Clinton. But perhaps having two rock stars who peaked well before her husband left office would be just the thing to provide the right reason to exclaim, “I’m with her!”
That speck of vertical light is a flag over the stage on the mall. Music so loud you can’t hear yer neighbor. @phillydotcom@PhillyInquirerpic.twitter.com/1VMwPMpt3a
— Jeff Gammage (@JeffGammage) November 7, 2016
The rallies in Ohio and Pennsylvania were about the only two campaign rallies Clinton held that attracted anything that resembled a large audience (thousands instead of hundreds). From the beginning, her campaign attracted stars from Katy Perry to Elizabeth Banks to Lena Dunham to Amy Schumer to George Clooney, who worked hard in various forms to get Clinton elected.
Combine that with the 57 of 59 endorsements she received from major newspapers (as tabulated by The Hill before the election), and Clinton had both Hollywood and the media firmly by her side.
“Poor Donald Trump,” most of the pundit class said. All he has is Drudge, Hannity and Scott Baio.
Result? Trump walks away with more electoral votes than any Republican in nearly 30 years and wins easily by capturing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania where those huge celebrity-fused Clinton rallies were held right before the election.
Fast forward six weeks later: As you may be seeing in print and on certain corners of cable news, a major narrative has emerged around Trump not being able to attract any major celebrities to his inaugural on January 20.
Missing, of course, is the rich irony that the media gave Trump billions in free advertising in the primary season — and even in the general — mostly because they helped turn him into a political celebrity the likes we’ve never seen.
There were even times when Clinton would be giving a speech but wouldn’t get airtime in favor of a Trump-less podium:
CNN and FOX NEWS CAN CONFIRM: Live Trump podium still without Trump! https://t.co/mlXZxfE3pV
— michaelscherer (@michaelscherer) May 26, 2016
He was and is the shiny object in becoming our first reality TV president. Ronald Reagan was also a celebrity, sure, but had been a two-term California governor and failed presidential candidate once before he was elected; Trump went straight from Celebrity Apprentice to candidate with no political experience in between.
After the election, Hollywood continued to show what little sway it has on the public at large as well while showing how hallow their promises are. At last check, the celebrities who vowed to leave the country if Trump won — Lena Dunham, Bryan Cranston, Samuel L. Jackson, Miley Cyrus, Amy Schumer, Chelsea Handler and Whoopi Goldberg, among many others, have not left the country as promised. Jon Stewart and Cher said they’d leave the planet outright. Both are still here at last check.
And then there was the now-infamous PSA starring Martin Sheen — a former TV president — Debra Messing and a cast of many begging electors in states across the country to vote for anyone but Trump.
Result? Clinton somehow lost more electors than Trump.
So is Trump worried that Hollywood is boycotting his big day in Washington when being sworn in as the 45th president?
The so-called “A” list celebrities are all wanting tixs to the inauguration, but look what they did for Hillary, NOTHING. I want the PEOPLE!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 23, 2016
When Barack Obama ran in eight long years ago, a study published by the University of Maryland and Northwestern University showed that he captured more than one million votes directly due to Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement.
In 2016, Oprah endorsed Clinton.
It obviously meant very little to nothing.
Opinions are one thing. Numbers are quite another. So here’s all you need to know about the importance of celebrities in today’s America:
The 2016 Emmy Awards was the lowest-rated show in its history.
The 2016 Academy Awards registered the second-lowest ratings in its history.
The MTV Music Awards — despite performances from sure things like Beyonce, Rihanna and Britney Spears — saw a 34 percent drop in ratings this year from 2015. Yup, more than one-third of its audience, gone.
The 2016 Grammys was the lowest-rated show since the beginning of the decade.
The American Music Awards — which featured Green Day screaming something about Trump, fascism and the KKK — was its lowest-rated show in its history.
You get the idea.
And this is more than about changing viewing habits. After all, the Republican primary debates and general election debates — starring Trump — saw its highest ratings in history. Go figure.
In the end, Trump is the star. Love him. Hate him. It’s pretty split on those two fronts.
But he and he alone draws the eyeballs, and not celebrities who are losing their influence almost as much as another elitist entity known as traditional media.