Why Aren’t There More Republicans in Hollywood?

olivia wildeLeslie Gornstein a/k/a The Answer Bitch, E! Online’s resident question-and-answer columnist, asks disinformation author Ed Rampell for help with this question:

Just saw a new video with Olivia Wilde urging people to vote progressive, and it got me to thinking: Why is Hollywood so darned liberal?
Brenda, San Antonio

You speak of the MoveOn.org video featuring Wilde as a hard-bitten activist from the future who berates you—you specifically, thanks to some Facebook-aided personalization—for not voting in the upcoming election.

It’s certainly not the kind of message you’d see from, say, Elisabeth Hasselbeck. Here’s why:

Indeed, Wilde and Romany Malco, he of The 40-Year-Old-Virgin, jokingly warn that without your vote, President Palin will, among other things, declare an “ultrawar” against the Pacific Ocean and “whatever country Björk is from.”

Now, I talked to Ed Rampell, author of Progressive Hollywood, about this. Rampell offers three very interesting reasons why the entertainment business is so full of non-Republicans.

First:

“Creative people in general, but in particular actors, rely upon empathy as a tool of their trade,” Rampell explains.

“Their ability to empathize with others, to put themselves in another person’s shoes, is very essential to being an actor, and this empathy leads for many of them to have a broader compassion with humanity in general and in particular with the underdog, with the oppressed.”

(That doesn’t mean that you won’t get the occasional Gary Sinise or Angie Harmon along with your Sean Penns, but you get the picture.)

Second:

“At any given time, about 90 percent of the Screen Actors Guild is unemployed.”

Yep. That’s right. Milla Jovovich may have something like eight or 10 pictures in the works, but she’s the exception, not the rule.

“People in the creative professions can easily identify with the economic plight of people dealing with unemployment and so on,” Rampell says.

And there’s a third element, most clearly illustrated in the example of Sean Penn.

“Penn’s father was Leo Penn. He was blacklisted during the McCarthy Era,” Rampell says. “If you grow up in a family that has a social justice tradition where politics are more apt to be discussed around the dinner table rather than sports, that will affect the children as they grow up.”

Of course there are plenty of Hollywood Republicans, Hasselbeck and Angie Harmon among them. But at least this explains why there aren’t more of them…

It’s well worth going to The Answer Bitch‘s site for the video too.

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  • Honu

    I like the ‘empathy’ argument. Makes sense to me. Same reason why there aren’t truly funny Republican comedians. Hard to be funny when the basis for your humor comes from a perspective that’s giving the finger to the environment, people who love each other the ability to marry and in general, support for the general public.

    • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

      Well…there was Dennis Miller…but after awhile he stopped being funny…and coincidentally…it was about the same that he started getting more conservative ;-)

      Actually…of political humorists…I still love PJ O Roarke the most. The man may be a stodgy old conservative…but he’s also brutally honest in criticizing his own party. Favorite quote from him:

      “Giving money and power to Congress…is like giving whiskey and car keys to a teenage boy.”

    • 5by5

      Funny comes from taking on the powerful, on behalf of those who can’t defend themselves, Republicans represent the other side of that equation. Therefore — not funny.

  • Honu

    I like the ‘empathy’ argument. Makes sense to me. Same reason why there aren’t truly funny Republican comedians. Hard to be funny when the basis for your humor comes from a perspective that’s giving the finger to the environment, people who love each other the ability to marry and in general, support for the general public.

  • Cerbralcaustic

    Demonizing your opponent and misrepresenting their positions are hardly a valid means of bolstering your argument.

    If you really want to understand why so few Hollywood stars are “openly” Republican/right wing/conservative, read the essay “Why Do Intellectuals Oppose Capitalism?”

    http://www.cato.org/pubs/policy_report/cpr-20n1-1.html

  • Honu

    Have I misrepresented the right’s positions? Anti environment, anti gay and in general removal of social safety nets. How have I misrepresented? Not every Republican believes these but the overall national Republican rhetoric are these positions. I also don’t think I demonized the right….maybe generalized and used license with the ‘giving the finger to’ comment but I didn’t demonize.

  • Haystack

    There’s also just the standard argument that diverse, urban environments (like LA) expose people to a variety of opinions and lifestyles, thereby predisposing them to be more tolerant and open-minded. Conservatives are most associated with rural areas where people generally think and look the same.

    • Laws456

      I believe that to be the case also. I’m born and raised in NYC and once I stepped out of the concrete jungle, let’s just say I found people’s worldview to be severely limited.

    • Synapse

      The thing there is that generally studies have shown that being exposed to different groups actually causes a higher level of racism, mostly from the “it’s easier to like them when they’re not around” effect. There are quite a lot of suburban kids who would love to save darfur and kids in LA who are pissed off at Hispanics.

      Also being liberal or conservative is no indication of open-mindedness. They are both very closed minded in general, refusing to accept anything outside their own point of view. The only difference is what position they are coming from to claim that anyone who doesn’t believe their way is closed minded.

      • Haystack

        Being exposed to different groups, or having to live and work among them for years?

  • Haystack

    There’s also just the standard argument that diverse, urban environments (like LA) expose people to a variety of opinions and lifestyles, thereby predisposing them to be more tolerant and open-minded. Conservatives are most associated with rural areas where people generally think and look the same.

  • Anonymous

    I believe that to be the case also. I’m born and raised in NYC and once I stepped out of the concrete jungle, let’s just say I found people’s worldview to be severely limited.

  • Caelimg

    yes.. I think that many times, creative people are more intelligent and being in LA Hollywood Generally (although not always.. ) you are introduced to more diversity. The Good actors that travel and have the means to see the world are exposed to more ideas. Also through the roles they play and the research they do to create their roles and the movies they are involved in they would tend to be exposed to other ideas.

    Unfortunately, the RIGHT and the Tea Party thinks that being intelligent is a bad thing. They scoff at the “intellectual elite” and if you start spouting off a lot of facts or other information they don’t like it. They like their little world view.. it is comfortable for them. Don’t be telling them that the earth is more than 6-10,000 years old.. or that climate change is happening. .The bible tells them otherwise….

  • Caelimg

    yes.. I think that many times, creative people are more intelligent and being in LA Hollywood Generally (although not always.. ) you are introduced to more diversity. The Good actors that travel and have the means to see the world are exposed to more ideas. Also through the roles they play and the research they do to create their roles and the movies they are involved in they would tend to be exposed to other ideas.

    Unfortunately, the RIGHT and the Tea Party thinks that being intelligent is a bad thing. They scoff at the “intellectual elite” and if you start spouting off a lot of facts or other information they don’t like it. They like their little world view.. it is comfortable for them. Don’t be telling them that the earth is more than 6-10,000 years old.. or that climate change is happening. .The bible tells them otherwise….

  • Hadrian999

    well beside the point that the right wingers declared war on Hollywood during macarthy’s reign of bluster,
    the republican obsession with living life in the least interesting way possible makes them a bad fit for industry of creativity

  • Hadrian999

    well beside the point that the right wingers declared war on Hollywood during macarthy’s reign of bluster,
    the republican obsession with living life in the least interesting way possible makes them a bad fit for industry of creativity

  • Tuna Ghost

    I think he may be refering to the satire that was the subject of the article. Ironically, however, it seems no one has told the Republican party that “Demonizing your opponent and misrepresenting their positions are hardly a valid means of bolstering your argument”. Wait, did I say “ironically”? What I meant to say was “you know what makes me want to stab myself in the face?”

  • Synapse

    The thing there is that generally studies have shown that being exposed to different groups actually causes a higher level of racism, mostly from the “it’s easier to like them when they’re not around” effect. There are quite a lot of suburban kids who would love to save darfur and kids in LA who are pissed off at Hispanics.

    Also being liberal or conservative is no indication of open-mindedness. They are both very closed minded in general, refusing to accept anything outside their own point of view. The only difference is what position they are coming from to claim that anyone who doesn’t believe their way is closed minded.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    Actually…there are far more conservatives in Hollywood than people hear about. A great many of them are quiet about it…in part because it could seriously damage their career. If a dozen or two dozen ardently liberal but very influential stars refuse to work with you…thats the difference between A-list parts and hanging with Kathy Griffin and the D-listers.

    I’ll be the first to admit its unfair…but it is the product of a ruthless environment where power influence and money hold sway. Left or right, Repub or Dem, a situation like that does not engender fairness or equality…it breeds a system built on power for power…and woe betide he or she who flows against the current.

    As for why Hollywood is liberal…lets face it…most of the major early studio power players were once young sons of immigrants…or new immigrants. An enduring legacy of having been treated like human feces by mainstream politics…followed up by a Red Scare that hunted people down and demonized them for demanding decent wages and working conditions…well…with a track record like that…what else would they become, and in turn, support?

    And more importantly, what’s wrong with that? If a major CEO devotes millions to his conservative politics…and is lent legitimacy by the belief that his earned wealth equates to some wisdom and the right and privilege to communicate his views…then why shouldn’t other millionaires, whose accomplishments and skill enriched them, and who appear to be courageous enough to speak personally…instead of hiding behind a few front groups and just slipping ad money from behind the scenes, be entitled to share their accumulated ‘wisdom’ with the world.

    Evidently money only equals wisdom if its sequestered behind closed doors, funneled through astroturf groups and ad agencies, and then finally makes its way onto TV to back one certain party. The solitary difference with the Hollywood crowd is that you don’t need a private detective to find out where they stand and where their money is headed.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    Actually…there are far more conservatives in Hollywood than people hear about. A great many of them are quiet about it…in part because it could seriously damage their career. If a dozen or two dozen ardently liberal but very influential stars refuse to work with you…thats the difference between A-list parts and hanging with Kathy Griffin and the D-listers.

    I’ll be the first to admit its unfair…but it is the product of a ruthless environment where power influence and money hold sway. Left or right, Repub or Dem, a situation like that does not engender fairness or equality…it breeds a system built on power for power…and woe betide he or she who flows against the current.

    As for why Hollywood is liberal…lets face it…most of the major early studio power players were once young sons of immigrants…or new immigrants. An enduring legacy of having been treated like human feces by mainstream politics…followed up by a Red Scare that hunted people down and demonized them for demanding decent wages and working conditions…well…with a track record like that…what else would they become, and in turn, support?

    And more importantly, what’s wrong with that? If a major CEO devotes millions to his conservative politics…and is lent legitimacy by the belief that his earned wealth equates to some wisdom and the right and privilege to communicate his views…then why shouldn’t other millionaires, whose accomplishments and skill enriched them, and who appear to be courageous enough to speak personally…instead of hiding behind a few front groups and just slipping ad money from behind the scenes, be entitled to share their accumulated ‘wisdom’ with the world.

    Evidently money only equals wisdom if its sequestered behind closed doors, funneled through astroturf groups and ad agencies, and then finally makes its way onto TV to back one certain party. The solitary difference with the Hollywood crowd is that you don’t need a private detective to find out where they stand and where their money is headed.

    • 5by5

      You’re right that there are far more Cons in Hollywood than people in the rest of the country realize. But actually living here, the notion that they are silent is complete bullshit. They shoot their mouths off all the time. This is perhaps the least Liberal place I’ve lived in (in many respects) outside of Colorado.

      And the notion that Hollywood is Liberal “because immigrants founded the studios and the red scare turned them Liberal” is also in direct contravention of what actually happened historically. McCarthyism made most of those “immigrants” studio head many of whom were Jewish, get more conservative not less, because they were afraid of the rightwingers coming in and taking away from them in the 50’s what the Nazis had taken away from them in the 30’s & 40’s — so they overreacted, and threw good people under the bus out of fear.

      What’s wrong with a CEO being Conservative? Only that it proves he’s a greedy prick.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    Well…there was Dennis Miller…but after awhile he stopped being funny…and coincidentally…it was about the same that he started getting more conservative ;-)

    Actually…of political humorists…I still love PJ O Roarke the most. The man may be a stodgy old conservative…but he’s also brutally honest in criticizing his own party. Favorite quote from him:

    “Giving money and power to Congress…is like giving whiskey and car keys to a teenage boy.”

  • 5by5

    Funny comes from taking on the powerful, on behalf of those who can’t defend themselves, Republicans represent the other side of that equation. Therefore — not funny.

  • 5by5

    You’re right that there are far more Cons in Hollywood than people in the rest of the country realize. But actually living here, the notion that they are silent is complete bullshit. They shoot their mouths off all the time. This is perhaps the least Liberal place I’ve lived in (in many respects) outside of Colorado.

    And the notion that Hollywood is Liberal “because immigrants founded the studios and the red scare turned them Liberal” is also in direct contravention of what actually happened historically. McCarthyism made most of those “immigrants” studio head many of whom were Jewish, get more conservative not less, because they were afraid of the rightwingers coming in and taking away from them in the 50’s what the Nazis had taken away from them in the 30’s & 40’s — so they overreacted, and threw good people under the bus out of fear.

    What’s wrong with a CEO being Conservative? Only that it proves he’s a greedy prick.

  • 5by5

    But the larger question as to why there are as many Liberals in Hollywood as there are?

    Well we’re talking about artists — artists who over the past 30 years especially, have seen Republicans attack them by doing crap like trying to defund the National Endowment for the Arts, or, by cutting back on things like school music programs, or berating the movie & television industry, despite the fact that it brings in more to the GDP in terms of revenue, than almost any other sector save for airplane manufacturing and corn production.

    And guess what? They’re fucking tired of it.

  • 5by5

    But the larger question as to why there are as many Liberals in Hollywood as there are?

    Well we’re talking about artists — artists who over the past 30 years especially, have seen Republicans attack them by doing crap like trying to defund the National Endowment for the Arts, or, by cutting back on things like school music programs, or berating the movie & television industry, despite the fact that it brings in more to the GDP in terms of revenue, than almost any other sector save for airplane manufacturing and corn production.

    And guess what? They’re fucking tired of it.

  • Haystack

    Being exposed to different groups, or having to live and work among them for years?

  • Honu

    Have I misrepresented the right’s positions? Anti environment, anti gay and in general removal of social safety nets. How have I misrepresented? Not every Republican believes these but the overall national Republican rhetoric are these positions. I also don’t think I demonized the right….maybe generalized and used license with the ‘giving the finger to’ comment but I didn’t demonize.

  • Tuna Ghost

    I think he may be refering to the satire that was the subject of the article. Ironically, however, it seems no one has told the Republican party that “Demonizing your opponent and misrepresenting their positions are hardly a valid means of bolstering your argument”. Wait, did I say “ironically”? What I meant to say was “you know what makes me want to stab myself in the face?”

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