Thursday, May 27, 2010

Matt Entenza, Robyn Robinson, Celebrity Politics: Throwing the Hail Mary?

So Matt Entenza selected Robyn Robinson of FOX 9 to be his running mate? How interesting. What does all this mean?

When Jesse Ventura was first elected one of my graduate students and I wrote an article describing how he was an example of what we called a “politainer.” A politainer is one who combines entertainer status with politics. Jesse represented the real emergence of the convergence of politics and entertainment–or politainment. Politainers use their celebrity status and multi-media venues (and their brand) as a way to gain name recognition and market themselves both politically and personally. Politainers also have an advantage in using their celebrity status to get valuable name recognition.

For Entenza/Robinson, each of the two has a good reason in being joined to the other. Entenza gets instant recognition and buzz for his campaign, something he clearly needs. It may not matter that RR is a political novice. What he is buying is buzz. In the end, it is unclear if the choice of lt. governor really affects how citizens vote. The issue for Entenza is to get name recognition, get the public talking and to think about the campaign, and then do other ads and GOTV to get people actually out to vote for you.

For RR, she is in a no lose deal. If she wins, she is lt. governor and able to use that status to help her market her new jewelry business. If she loses, again, the campaign helps her with the marketing of her name and brand.

The real danger for Entenza is if RR flops and people say her choice smacks of desperation or it speaks badly of him as governor to select a political novice. I think RR is smarter than Palin, but the latter is one of the few examples where a number 2 on the ticket hurt who was number one.

Are Minnesotans any more likely to pick politianers than those in other states? I am not sure that is true. But if it is, maybe it says something about Minnesotans who are normally reserved that they are attracted to candidates with a lot more personality than we see in most of us. Or perhaps it speaks to how these candidates are very familiar faces and we vote based on our comfort level of supporting those we already know. Or perhaps the success speaks to how bad the major political parties have been in terms of recruiting a new generation of dynamic candidates who look fresh. Thus, you cannot look to the junior varsity bench but instead recruit from the outside. Her selection may speak more to the lack of depth of good political candidates than does anything else.

And if elected, what now? What does she do or what are her qualifications? This is what we need to hear. However, if she is truly irrelevant as lt. governor that again speaks to the need to eliminate that position as a waste of taxpayer dollars.

Whatever the reason, I will not argue that popularity of politianers in MN is part of our political culture. That answer does not tell us anything. Appeals to political culture are like saying there is something in our drinking water.

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