In the past few weeks a surprising figure has emerged as the face of the Democratic Party’s attempts to save Obamacare. Late-night comedy host Jimmy Kimmel, whose child required major surgery, is sticking it to the Republican Scrooges he claims would deny such life-saving surgery to kids who aren’t the progeny of wealthy celebrities. Kimmel’s lack of expertise and even basic knowledge of how health care works has been exposed by nearly every outlet on the Right, but a question remains: why is Jimmy Kimmel the face of Democratic health care policy?
The easy answer to that question is, “Hey, he’s a celebrity, celebrities get press.” This is true, but last week we learned something else. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, arguably the most powerful Democrat in the country, was feeding Kimmel talking points. What presumably began as a heartfelt and organic effort by Kimmel to address the issue of sick kids turned into a put-up job. The comedian quite literally became a mouthpiece for the Democratic Party.
This Is Becoming Increasingly Common
This is not an isolated incident. Take the war of words between President Trump and many of the country’s leading athletes. National Football League players are bending the knee to protest Trump. LeBron James, the best basketball player in the world, is jabbing the president in online videos. Once again, Democratic elected officials are taking a backseat in these protests, if they even mention them at all.
On both issues, there are pretty clear reasons elected officials would prefer celebrity surrogates to be out front instead of themselves. Unlike politicians, actors and athletes are completely unaccountable. Kimmel can mouth off about how terrible Graham-Cassidy is, but nobody expects him to deliver a serious answer as to how the glaring holes in the Affordable Care Act can be filled in.
NFL players can protest the national anthem and the man who resides in the White House, but there’s a reason we don’t see Schumer, whom Jon Stewart once described as seeking out little red recording lights like a sunflower seeks the sun, standing next to them. In fact, very few politicians of any stripe actually want to attack the anthem and the flag, because they know it is incredibly bad politics.
Accountability for One’s Positions Matters
As Democratic politicians hide behind and whisper talking points to these Hollywood celebrities and athletes, a strange dynamic has emerged. Our politics are becoming Donald Trump versus the A-list. When this gets pointed out, some respond that Trump himself is a celebrity and at least in part a product of show business.
This is true, but there is a significant, even crucial difference. Trump ran for president. He put his money where his mouth was, even when nobody gave him a chance to win. He took the risk of an electoral humiliation that we all thought was coming, and somehow he won. Now, as the president of the United States, Trump is accountable to all of us. Who is Kimmel accountable to? TV executives? Network shareholders? Certainly not the nation’s voters.
This abdication by Democratic politicians has been a hallmark of the Trump presidency thus far. His most important opponents have not been Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi—in fact, they both have been working with him. His battles are with Teen Vogue, Lena Dunham, Colin Kaepernick, and every humble recipient of any of the 10 million trophies celebrities constantly bestow upon each other. The problem is that nobody actually expects that any of these people has the slightest idea what he or she is talking about.
It’s all feelings when someone points out that Teen Vogue’s facts are a nonsensical jumble. We hear that isn’t the point, the point is that woke young women are speaking truth to power. When someone points out that Kimmel has no solution to offer the millions of Americans who can’t afford their health insurance, we hear “He’s just a comedian.”
This is why, right now, the country desperately needs actual elected Democrats to climb out from behind the shadows of their celebrity stand-ins. We need this because there are real, hard questions that need to be answered. While Republicans like John McCain and Rand Paul take heat for bucking their party’s leadership, where is the Democratic senator willing to make real concessions to forge a new path on health care, or any issue?
Look, Guys, Celebrity Rage Isn’t Persuasive
From a more purely political perspective, we have to scratch our heads at the fact that Democrats think this is an effective way to fight Trump. I mean, if celebrity condemnation were enough to stop Trump, he wouldn’t be president. He wants to take on famous people who have never run for or been elected to anything. He does so from a position of strength. It’s been his modus operandi since he launched his campaign with weird attacks on Rosie O’Donnell.
Looking forward, Democratic leadership seems to be comprised of a few folks over 70, a few ex-presidents, and a lady on a book tour. That’s not going to cut it. If Schumer has something to say about health care, he should get on TV, or hold a rally, or run an ad and just say it. What he shouldn’t be doing is using celebrities like ventriloquist dummies to parrot points and take no questions.
There may have been some logic in the idea that Democrats should be quiet and get out of the way while Trump implodes as president, but that’s not what is happening. In September he had three straight weeks of growth in approval numbers that landed at a respectable 43 percent. The drastic failure so many on the Left have been expecting from Trump for more than two years isn’t happening. We aren’t days away from impeachment; Robert Mueller isn’t going to throw Trump in jail and crown Hillary Clinton as the true president.
It’s time for Democrats to man up and get in the game. It’s time for leadership and provocative ideas. The country has heard enough from celebrities on the front lines of the resistance. Now we must have elected officials, with skin in game, engaging in the vital issues of the day.