Reports of Dianne Feinstein’s political demise, to borrow from Mark Twain, have been greatly exaggerated. After a San Francisco Chronicle article questioned her capacity to handle the demands of her job due to age-related mental deterioration, California’s octogenarian senator said no, she was fit as a fiddle and planned to finish her term in 2024.
Nevertheless, politics is a cruel business and tongues continue to wag. What if DiFi did have to leave her post early?
It would fall to Governor Gavin Newsom to appoint her interim successor, just as he did when Kamala Harris left the U.S. Senate to serve with the fit as a fiddle Joe Biden. Newsom chose then-Secretary of State Alex Padilla to take her place, and now Padilla hopes to win election to the Senate in his own right in the fall.
Two things are virtually certain if Newsom is able to make another Senatorial pick: 1) The person will be a Democrat, and 2) He or she will NOT be a Hollywood show business celebrity.
Why not the latter? Because that is not how the Dems roll. Almost all celebrity politicians are Republicans.
The most famous and successful Republican celebrity politician of all was, of course, Ronald Reagan, two-time president of the United States and two-time governor of the country’s largest state. The Gipper had real show biz cred—leading man in the movies, marriages to two actresses (Jane Wyman, Nancy Davis Reagan) and buddying around with the likes of Jimmy Stewart and Bill Holden.
Reagan was also pals with another conservative California Republican, Senator George Murphy, who tap-danced and sang on the silver screen and co-starred with Shirley Temple in the Depression-era musical Little Miss Broadway. Temple, the greatest child star of all time, grew up to become a U.S. Ambassador and a delegate to the United Nations. A Republican, naturally.
Sonny Bono was elected mayor of Palm Springs and later became a U.S. Congressman representing that area in Washington. Sonny was the one with the mustache in the hit singing duo, Sonny and Cher.
Dirty Harry, The Man with No Name, Oscar-winning director of “Unforgiven,” “Mystic River,” and so many more memorable films—that would be the famously conservative Clint Eastwood, who also served a stint as mayor of Carmel.
Ah, but all those names (except for Clint’s) are buried in the past. Times have changed. Everyone knows that today’s Hollywood is more left-wing than the Harvard faculty lounge. Look at Oprah. Or DiCaprio and Clooney. Don’t forget Debra Messing and Judd Apatow. There are more Hollywood celebrity activists rallying for left-wing causes than there are dead bodies in a Robert DeNiro (another famous lefty) mob movie.
Yes. Indeed. All true. But even in recent times the Republican celebrity trend holds. It is one thing to rant on Twitter, it is quite another to enter the MMA full-body beat-down of electoral politics. And in this regard, Republicans appear more willing to step into the ring.
Who can forget Arnold Schwarzenegger, although many would like to. The “Governator” served seven years as the top elected official of California and made almost no one happy, much the way audiences felt after sitting through “Terminator Genisys.” Fred “Law and Order” Thompson became a law and order U.S. Senator from Tennessee. Another Republican Fred, name of Gandy, better known as “Gopher” on “The Love Boat,” represented Iowa in the House of Representatives.
Then there was the head honcho on that hit reality TV show, “The Apprentice.” Can’t remember his name, but it’ll come to me…
The major exception to Republican celebrity dominance was SNL’s Stuart Smalley, aka Al Franken, who was a Democrat Senator from Minnesota. Former Knick sharpshooter Bill Bradley, also a Dem, scored points for New Jersey in the Senate. But Bradley’s jam was sports, and for this discussion the spotlight is on show biz.
There are any number of theories as to why celebrity R’s outnumber celebrity D’s in elective politics. It may be that actors and actresses who swing from the left have more successful careers than the righties, and would rather take lunch at Nobu Malibu than stump around Lodi or Palmdale on the rubber chicken circuit.
After all, why would say, Matthew McConaughey run for governor of Texas when the money is better in Hollywood, the work is easier, and there are no opposition researchers burrowing like rats into the secret compartments of your private life? These sorts of considerations may have stopped Ashley Judd’s contemplated bid for the U.S. Senate in Kentucky, and they may also be holding back The Rock, who has publicly toyed with the idea of running for president.
The Herculean Kevin Sorbo could conceivably get elected somewhere, if he chose to make a go of it. He’s good looking, personable, well-spoken, and yes, a conservative Republican. Democrats tend not to draw their candidates from show business or private industry; they look more to the public sector and career politicians on the way up, such as Padilla.
And so, if Feinstein does indeed retire early, leaving Gavin Newsom to fill her slot, one more thing is dead-certain. His decision will be based on the calculus of raw power politics, not show business.