Depending on your political perspective, pop singer Lady Gaga’s frequent appearances in the political-news pages are either wonderful, or a sign that the rapture actually occurred without anyone realizing it.
Last week, presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty tried to get his fans’ T-Paws up by extemporaneously holding court on the issue of Lady Gaga’s singing talents. The squirm-inducing interview, in which Pawlenty shoehorned his love of the bizarre songstress into an otherwise unrelated discussion, was only slightly more awkward than the time my dad told me he had been “poked” on Facebook. Fortunately for voters, Pawlenty didn’t run for any national office in 2006, as he would have unveiled his eleven-part plan to bring sexy back. (Clearly, Pawlenty has never heard such Gaga songs as “Heavy Metal Lover,” which contains language that, as famous Evangelical leader Ned Flanders put it, you would expect to hear at Denny’s.)
In June, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton boasted of the deal her State Department brokered — in Pakistan? Libya? Afghanistan? No, in Italy, to have Gaga appear at a gay-rights concert there. “Now, as many of you know, Lady Gaga is Italian-American and a strong supporter of LGBT rights,” said Clinton on June 28. “And the organizers of the Euro Pride event desperately wanted her to perform, and a letter to her from Ambassador Thorne was instrumental in sealing the deal.” Yes, thanks to Secretary Clinton, Europe’s Little Monsters (Gaga’s name for her fans) got to see her green wig.
Lady Gaga’s personal political observations, which receive their fair share of national coverage, are a standard bouillabaisse of liberal sentiments: gay rights (she’s for them), “don’t ask, don’t tell” (against), and illegal immigration (for). Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid even tweeted her a heads-up when the DADT repeal vote was scheduled.
In many circles, Gaga’s appeal is in the “shocking” way she presents herself. But her calculated oddballery is only shocking to those who are young enough to know Madonna only as the skeletal mascot for Kabbalah. Her scripted irreverence depends heavily on mocking religion, which remains the final retreat for lazy artists looking for a cheap path to seeming controversial. (See songs “Black Jesus,” “Judas,” and “Bloody Mary.”)
But most of the politicians looking to cozy up to Gaga fail to replicate her most endearing quality: She is fearless.
Obviously, for politicians, “fearlessness” occupies a different hemisphere than it does for entertainers. Marco Rubio’s not going to give a speech on the Senate floor wearing a meat dress. (Or, at least, he hasn’t yet.) But there are so few elected officials we can truly consider groundbreaking. And, perhaps most ironically, they are almost exclusively Republicans.
Think of political figures commonly credited with being fearless. (And not “fearless” in the “just wait until you see a Twitter picture of my underwear” sense.) Chris Christie has become a national tour de force for his contentious style. Rep. Paul Ryan’s conventional looks and conservative demeanor don’t exactly scream “anti-establishment,” but given the current establishment, it’s true. (However, Ryan enthusiasts wear significantly less glitter than Lady Gaga’s fans. Except, of course, for George F. Will.)
In fact, in direct contradiction to the entertainment world, it is conservatives that are the true political contrarians. Fighting to break the chokehold public unions have on our government and to reform our entitlement programs is far more courageous than hatching oneself from an egg onstage.
Regardless of who becomes the Republican nominee, he or she will be much more devoted to shaking up the Washington establishment than the Democratic incumbent. Just don’t expect any of them to birth a glitter baby on Saturday Night Live anytime soon.
— Christian Schneider is a senior fellow at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute.