Many celebrities inflate their importance, particularly celebrities who get involved in politics. They take a stand on some issue, start talking about it, and act as though they have moral authority due to their fame. After all, when they show up for an event, people are eager to take photos and line up to be one of the lucky ones to shake hands or ask them a question.
In politics, celebrities are famous for making themselves heard during presidential elections, especially on behalf of Democrats. They hold swanky fundraisers at their Hamptons or L.A. mansions with ticket prices that start at $15,000 (because they’re looking out for the impoverished or something) and allow them to feel like political power players for a night.
It’s rare that celebrities involve themselves in congressional races, particularly special elections, but that’s what happened recently in Georgia’s sixth congressional district, where Republican Karen Handel beat Democrat Jon Ossoff by four points after weeks of media chatter that the election would serve as a referendum on the Trump presidency.
It’s difficult to see how Ossoff lost when he had every advantage. Ossoff had more money than Handel. He raised nearly $23 million from outside the district and spent $30 million overall. Handel had the shadow of an unpopular president hanging over her and Ossoff had the backing of the Hollywood community. What could go wrong? In almost any other year, a special congressional election flies under the radar without much fanfare. But this is no ordinary year, and Democrats convinced themselves that Tom Price’s old seat could flip to Democrats despite not having won the district since 1978.
That’s where Hollywood’s heavy hitters came in. Drafted to make a case for Ossoff, Hollywood was stumping for him as far back as April. Actor Samuel L. Jackson recorded a radio ad for the DCCC in favor of Ossoff:
Actors Christopher Gorman and Alyssa Milano tweeted the following in March, when early voting started:
— Christopher Gorham (@ChrisGorham) March 27, 2017
When Ossoff failed to capture more than fifty percent of the initial vote, the race moved to a June 20th runoff. Celebrities backed Ossoff again, with many of them taking to Twitter to tout his candidacy, including Sarah Silverman:
— Sarah Silverman (@SarahKSilverman) June 20, 2017
— Debra Messing (@DebraMessing) June 20, 2017
— Debra Messing (@DebraMessing) June 19, 2017
Samuel L. Jackson was back as well:
Ga Voters, get out there & VOTE OSSOFF!! The Future is now, make a Change!! You're our First Step on the Road to Recovery!!!
— Samuel L. Jackson (@SamuelLJackson) June 20, 2017
And Mark Ruffalo joined in to help:
— Mark Ruffalo (@MarkRuffalo) June 20, 2017
In the end, all the celebrity endorsements meant nothing. To gain an understanding of how little their influence meant to the race, Jon Ossoff received fewer votes (124,893) than a man named Rodney Stooksbury did (124,917) against former Rep. Tom Price in November 2016. Why is this remarkable? For a short period of time, nobody even knew if a man name Rodney Stooksbury existed. He ran no campaign. There are no pictures of him publicly available. His campaign showed expenditures of $427.
The flummoxed Hollywood elite cannot understand how this happened. With all of their support and all of the money they helped to raise, how in the world did Jon Ossoff lose, especially in a well-educated and wealthy district?
The answer rests, in large part, on culture. Jon Ossoff, despite all of the commercials attempting to brand him a centrist candidate who wanted to cut wasteful spending, eliminate fraud, and assist businesses, is, at his ideological core, still more representative of the national Democratic party and minority leader Nancy Pelosi than the voters of the sixth congressional district.
People in that district may not like Trump all that much—in fact, Trump only won the district by one point over Hillary Clinton in November. But voters there understand very well who they wanted to represent them in Congress, and when they looked at Jon Ossoff, they decided he wasn’t the right person for the job. Hollywood stars may wield power and influence on the red carpet, but thankfully, they don’t have much impact on the sidewalks of the Atlanta suburbs.