Thirst for Celebrity Degrades U.S. Political Process

Have you seen the pictures of Halle
Berry
’s baby? Yeah, but that’s nothing, did
you hear what Britney Spears just did? No way did she do that, but can you
believe how much former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer paid for his prostitute?

American society has an obsession with fame and fortune,
popular culture and everything to do with celebrities. It makes me mad enough
that the average American knows more about which pop star just checked into
rehab than the rising death toll in Iraq,
but it seems that recently, our fixation with celebrities has transcended the
world of politics. On the off chance that I stop on Fox News on my way to watch
ESPN or Food Network, it seems that news anchors have nothing better to talk
about than which local politician had an affair and lied about it.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it is awful that elected
officials, and people in general, are cheating on their spouses and lying about
it, but considering the state of the world, why is so much attention being paid
to political sex scandals? Apparently, the genocide in Sudan
is meaningless when new evidence has surfaced implicating Detroit Mayor Kwame
Kilpatrick in an extramarital affair with his chief of staff.

To me, there seems to be a direct correlation between the
tabloid-minded nature of the American public and the way in which politicians
are analyzed. Nobody cares that Detroit
has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation or that its factories
are closing down with alarming frequency — all that matters is that its mayor
slept with a woman who is not his wife.

San Francisco’s
own mayor, Gavin Newsom, is a celebrity in his own right and local San
Franciscans have placed the man on such a high pedestal that nothing he does
can fully tarnish his idolized image. Aside from having admitted to sleeping
with his campaign manager’s wife, Newsom checked into rehab for alcohol abuse
after showing up at numerous political events obviously wasted. These are the
types of things that would get most politicians ousted from their political
throne, but not for Newsom, who is as beloved by the majority of the city as
are cable cars and Haight Street.

When Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) was found guilty of “lewd
conduct” in an airport bathroom, the pundits at CNN had a field day. What
better distraction from the real faults of American politicians than a U.S.
senator having homosexual sex in a bathroom stall at the Minneapolis-St.
Paul International
Airport
? Forget an American
national debt of $9.5 trillion; what matters is that an elected official got it
on with a dude in a bathroom.

Aside from the numerous domestic problems that face the United
States
, the glorification of American
politicians keeps us from paying attention to the global atrocities going on
around us. War, starvation, genocide, racism and sickness abound, yet Rep.
Richard Curtis (R-Wash.) getting blackmailed by a male prostitute dominated the
national headlines.

Isn’t the point of our American democracy that all citizens
are equal, and that our politicians are normal folk just like us who are
elected to represent the average citizen? If that’s true, then how is it that
politicians have become glorified to the point where their private lives are
now more important than their political decisions? Treating elected officials
as celebrities detracts from what their true responsibility is and creates a
superficial public image.

An informed American public should keep politicians honest
and on task, but that will never happen if they are treated like movie stars
and musicians. Guaranteeing that they fulfill their role in government requires
us to view them in the same light as everyone else, regardless of what they did
to whom in an airport bathroom.