Emily Orrson | Convention celebrates celebrity

The Half of It | Lining the road to the White House with red carpet is a distraction

· September 6, 2012, 12:18 am

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Emily Orrson
The Half of It

Ann Romney isn’t the only desperate housewife taking the stage at this year’s national conventions. Eva Longoria, co-chair of the Obama campaign, will speak at tonight’s DNC.

Other celebrities like Clint Eastwood (whose chair was not part of his title) guest-starred at the RNC. Tonight, Jessica Alba will host the closing party in Charlotte.

As evidenced these past two weeks, our politics are literally “star-spangled.” And we can’t get enough.

Political news coverage has been peppered with Perez-style commentary. Coverage of Biden’s vacation spots follows coverage of his campaign points. Reports of Romney’s car-elevator construction in his third home parallel those of his policy. And if Obama likes the White House honey ale enough to take it on the campaign trail, can we get a recipe?

In this day and age, you no longer have to be Ronald Reagan to be a celebrity president. And the media outlets know it.

While the field of journalism is shrinking, political coverage seems to be expanding. And this phenomenon is a recent one: news and politics site The Huffington Post launched in 2005, Buzzfeed in 2006, Politico in 2007 and The Daily Beast in 2008.

With the upcoming election, there has also been a surge in political blogs. GQ launched Death Race 2012 this January and the New York Times, The Washington Post and NPR host their own politics blogs: The Caucus, The Fix and It’s All Politics, respectively.

When I asked 2005 College graduate and former Daily Pennsylvanian staff writer Ashley Parker, who reports on Romney for the New York Times, for career advice, she pointed me to places like Politico, Buzzfeed or GQ’s blog — because this is where the jobs are.

The demand for political coverage is growing, but we don’t want politics alone. We want personality, intrigue, fashion — the day-to-day routine, the favorite breakfast.

We want to know what’s on Paul Ryan’s iPod. We want to know how much Michelle’s J. Mendel jacket cost. We want to read about Rep. Kevin Yoder’s drunken escapades skinny-dipping in the Sea of Galilee.

But if both Obama and Romney have achieved celebrity status, they are of very different breeds.

Last spring, Karl Rove’s super PAC American Crossroads released a commercial featuring Obama dancing with Ellen DeGeneres in 2008 and singing Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” in 2012, with the overlaid text “four years of a celebrity president.”

Last April, royal blue curtains opened to reveal Obama on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, just before the two joined the Roots to “slow jam the news.” And can we forget Will.i.am setting “yes we can” to music?

If Obama is like James Franco — cool, young, and charismatic, Romney is like Christopher Nolan — cold, stony and rich. His stardom resides in the world of the 1 percent, in photos of his La Jolla home, in Ann’s $990 Reed Karkoff blouse, in their dressage horse, Rafalca.

But I don’t want to know how much Romney’s horse cost. I don’t care to read Obama’s Occidental transcripts. I don’t have a particular interest in Michelle Obama’s shoe size.

In a New York Times column this August, Thomas Friedman wrote of Romney’s campaign, “the bar for this campaign is so low that we celebrate the fact that it might include a serious debate.”

With a staggering increase in political coverage, it is not that we need more debate. We need more serious debate. Less of the personal, more of the policy. Less speculation, more statement. Less drama and more deliberation. There’s no need to line this campaign trail in red carpet. And, let’s face it, we will never get closer to the White House than the South Lawn bees to their Honey Ale.

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