Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney, who may square off in the 2016 presidential election, have little in common when it comes to political viewpoints. But they do face the same political problem — and it could hamper them two years from now.
It transcends their political missteps and verbal miscues. In fact, what ails Clinton and Romney has practically nothing to do with politics at all.
They are famous, but not popular.
This is a tough syndrome to overcome. Sure, we'll see political veterans making regular appearances on the comedy circuit with Dave and the Jimmys and Charlie and Tavis on late-night television talk shows. Their name value means that they're going to be recognized by the intellegencia audience.
If there is some hot-button issue like immigration reform or terrorism or the Middle East on everyone's mind, so much the better to have an erudite politician on the tube to talk about it.
But getting elected president? That's a chore when you're more famous than popular. It basically means that you've been on the national scene for so long that people think they know you. Because you don't inspire them, though, they naturally either take you for granted or silently dislike you. Sometimes they vocally dislike you, too (aka the media).
As a journalist and author, I have seen examples of this in famous people. The most glaring case was with Bob Dylan, whom I wrote a book about two years ago.
By the 1980s, he had been famous for two decades, but the times were indeed (a-) changing for Dylan, his fans and the world. Ronald Reagan's proclamation of "Morning in America" had infused a post-Vietnam/Watergate feeling of optimism in America. MTV was in — and aging stars like Dylan didn't quite know how to cope with it at first. Fashion sense was suddenly more important than biting or evocative lyrics.
Dylan regrouped. He eventually found a younger audience by touring incessantly and releasing personal albums. Today, he plays about 100 sold-out shows a year and his albums routinely sell well.
Politics can be considered a form of popular entertainment, right? Therefore, Dylan's example should not be lost on the advisers of Hillary and Mitt. Remember how Barack Obama came out of nowhere, or so it seemed, and captured the White House in 2008. (Well, Hillary surely remembers, no doubt.)
Can Mitt or Hillary forge such a grand comeback on the political stage? Can they convince us that there is a new Hillary to gush about or a new Mitt to admire?
Their political futures depend on it. That's the deal when you're more famous than popular.
Jon Friedman writes the Media Matrix blog for Indiewire.com. He is also the author of "Forget About Today: Bob Dylan's Genius for (Re)Invention, Shunning the Naysayers, and Creating a Personal Revolution." Read more reports from Jon Friedman — Click Here Now.
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