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August 15, 2004
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The Presidential Election: Six Weeks & Counting
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WONDER LAND

Democrats Sell
Apocalypse Now
To Hollywood

Is there any room left in the VIP lounge for the little guy?

BY DANIEL HENNINGER
Friday, August 13, 2004 12:01 a.m. EDT

The most talked-about party at the Democratic convention was the one thrown by the Creative Coalition featuring the kind of people one normally reads about at the supermarket: Jason Bateman, Ellen Burstyn, Bianca Jagger, Billy Baldwin, the Red Hot Chili Peppers. They even had a VIP room, like the lounge bars in New York. In fact, it's looking more and more like a two-tier party--one for VIP Democrats and one for bridge-and-tunnel Democrats.

The most talked about Democratic fund-raiser before the convention was at Radio City Music Hall, featuring Whoopi Goldberg, the comedian and former Slim-Fast pitch person. Also Paul Newman, Jon Bon Jovi, Meryl Streep, Sarah Jessica Parker, Mary J. Blige, Chevy Chase and Jessica Lange.

The most talked about Democratic fund-raising event after the convention is the Vote for Change Tour. Led by Bruce Springsteen, the performers who will be touring to defeat George Bush include Pearl Jam, R.E.M., Dave Matthews, John Fogerty, Bonnie Raitt, Keb' Mo', the Dixie Chicks, James Taylor and Death Cab for Cutie.

The world of celebrity and the world of the Democratic Party are now joined at the hip. They are one. Their interests, presumably, coincide.

Here are some of the things the celebrities have been saying to help John Kerry and the Democrats.

Meryl Streep: "I wondered which of the megaton bombs Jesus, our president's personal savior, would have personally dropped on the sleeping families in Baghdad." Chevy Chase, the comedian: "Clinton plays the sax, John plays the guitar, and the president's a liar." Actor John Leguizamo: "Latins for Republicans. It's like roaches for Raid." Elton John: "There's an atmosphere of fear in America right now that is deadly." Will Smith, the star of "I, Robot," says the movie is about the Bush administration: "The main robot Viki says in the film that 'for the good of the people, some freedoms and some people's lives have to be sacrificed.' "

These sound like people who are spending more time surfing the political Internet than is good for one's mental health. A day doesn't pass now when yet another deeply distressed actress or singer doesn't appear among us, like the zombies in the "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," declaring that "history" or the "future" demands that they work full-time to "end" the Bush presidency. Linda Ronstadt stopped an innocent gig in Vegas to make a demented pitch for "Fahrenheit 9/11." Hollywood's become a town of Demophiliacs.

We live in a time in which politics is more divisive than ever, with families torn asunder and people at dinner parties sweetly dancing around the subject. Most grown-ups know that poisoning a lifelong relationship over an election isn't worth it. But these celebrities must think America is the planet of the apes. They parade their political obsessions, no matter that half the voting-age population supported George Bush the last time out.

Hyper-politicized Hollywood is the new bed Bill Clinton made for the Democrats, and now the party is going to have to lie in it. At the level that matters most to party pros--raising money--there would appear to be no downside to the relationship. The L.A. donor base consists of people whose psychological profile draws them into weird quasi-religions like Scientology and est. The Democrats are pitching themselves and the election as a holy crusade against barbarian Republicans led by Genghis Bush and Cheney the Hun. But in politics the promised land is always on the horizon, the infidels are never defeated, and ever-more contributions are needed on the road to salvation. What better place to market politics as the apocalypse than Hollywood? To date, Mr. Kerry has raised $47.5 million in California. Al Gore raised only $5 million.

Isn't it becoming harder by the day to take the Democrats seriously as the party of the common man and the left-out? Besides these people, the party's primary sources of support have become trial lawyers and Wall Street financiers. It is becoming a party run by a new class of elites who make fast money--$25 million for 30 days work on a movie, millions (even billions) winning lawsuits against doctors or asbestos users, millions to do arithmetic for a business merger. But they're all running against "Halliburton."

The days when in the same breath you said AFL-CIO, blue-collar and Democrats are gone. The industrial unions, which connected the party to its authentic roots, are downstairs and out of sight of the nouveau arriviste Democrats. With each new election cycle, the donkey is morphing into a thoroughbred, getting its cash and ideas in living rooms on Park Avenue and Rodeo Drive. This year more than $510,000 has come out of Beverly Hills, zip code 90210. Middle-class squeeze? There is something bizarre, even ancien régime, about really big-money people leading a small-person party. Dennis Kucinich must be beside himself.

Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt and James Taylor seem to think it's 1968 again, a time when Arlo Guthrie and Pete Seeger could serenade 250,000 people at the anti-Vietnam Mobilization on the Washington Mall. One of the anthems then was "The Eve of Destruction." Well, this isn't 1968, and this country is nowhere near the eve of destruction.

Indeed, as unsettled as America was in 1968, that year ended with Richard Nixon defeating Hubert Humphrey. Four years later, despite similar strains of the apocalypse now in the air, Nixon overwhelmed George McGovern. Today, John Kerry has to appeal to serious voters while driving a magic bus full of pampered Hollywood plutocrats publicly singing that the end is near. It should be a neat trick.

Mr. Henninger is deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page. His column appears Fridays in the Journal and on OpinionJournal.com.

Today on OpinionJournal:

Review & Outlook: The press corps discovers the First Amendment.
Kimberley A. Strassel: Carl McCall (and the rest) knew every last detail. So what's Eliot Spitzer's case?

And on the Taste page:

Review & Outlook: An NFL Hall of Famer joins Bill Cosby in demanding accountability from young black men.
Tony & Tacky: Gold fish cruelty. Plus a candid vandal.
John H. Fund: C-SPAN cancels "Booknotes."
Donald B. Kraybill: Fresh evidence that the Amish are wise to avoid watching TV.

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