The latest word from the presidential campaign of President Barack Obama is that people should vote for him because he is supported by the likes of actor Justin Long and musician Bruce Springsteen.
The appearances of both celebrities — who, apart from their talent at pleasing your eyes and ears, are not noted for much aside from their support of Obama — are a typical example of puedo-events that excite people but deliver no substance. The subtle hope behind Springsteen’s concert last night is that, in addition to being entertained, those in attendance will consider voting for the same person he supports. Why else would Springsteen and his entourage fly to Ames, Iowa, to give a concert on a Thursday night?
The presumption is that if he can make such good music and please us so thoroughly, his political judgment must be good, and we ought to agree with him.
We disagree. Insofar as the expectations for them were that they would entertain us or give a stump speech based on their celebrity rather than taking the time to figure out what in particular students are worried about and talk honestly about them, Long and Springsteen materializing on campus are not political events.
Also, since they are not political events, we have to wonder at why, then, the Obama campaign would have brought them here.
Unless, of course, they wanted to obscure politics altogether and administer a distracting opiate. To the extent that Obama is using people whose names are widely known to tout his campaign, his campaign is not founded on himself. The campaign of any politician should rest on the candidate him- or herself.
None of us — from the cynical members of this editorial board to the biggest fanboys and -girls of Long and Springsteen — should care how any other person — even ones as famous as Long and Springsteen — will vote.
To be effective, politics requires that judgments and decisions be the product of individual thought as we weigh evidence and arguments against one another. Listening to songs like “The Promised Land” and “Thunder Road” do not accomplish that. Our job as citizens consists of participating in politics in our own right, not in a mass of people in front of a stage. That is especially the case when the person on that stage makes his or her living as an entertainer.
Let Springsteen and Long come to campus, but let us make sure that their presentations of entertainment, such as they exist, be labeled as such. Let us not confuse them with politics. Public service requires independent action rather than adopting the views of others because the people who hold them are popular.