While running for President in 1968, Richard Nixon appeared on the show Laugh-In, a popular comedy show among young people. The results you may see above, with Nixon uttering one of show’s catchphrases.
Nixon’s opponent, Hubert Humphrey, declined an invitation to appear on Laugh-In, reasoning that it was much too undignified for a Presidential candidate to be on a low comedy show.
Lately, some political observers, such as Karl Rove, have claimed that the fact that Sarah Palin is now hosting/starring in a reality TV show suggests she is not a serious candidate for President. Jonathan Weiler at Huffington Post argues that Palin knows this, and doesn’t want to run for President, at least not in 2012, but instead wants to be an entertainment TV star. Perhaps this is so… but then again, what if it is a Nixon-on-Laugh-In type of strategy?
Now, there are at least two potential counter-arguments to this. The first is that there is a difference between appearing for four seconds to say a catchphrase and being the star of a reality show. The second is that Nixon’s Laugh-In appearance was–or at least could have been–beneficial because he was perceived as a dull, uptight man, too absorbed in policy to have personality. This is precisely the opposite of Palin’s problem.
The first objection neglects the change in the times–a four second appearance on a comedy show was roughly as shocking in 1968 as a Reality TV show appearance is today. The second objection is a fair one, and may be proven accurate with regard to Palin’s Presidential chances.
However, while thinking about this issue, I saw this exchange from the CNN show “Parker Spitzer”. You can watch the whole thing here, but I only want to point out this relevant quote from rabid Palin supporter John Ziegler, responding to a question about which media sources he thinks were responsible for what he considers the unfair character assassination of Palin:
“Actually, I believe it’s the entertainment shows, the comedy shows, that have way more influence. We saw that with the targeting, the destruction, the assassination of Sarah Palin in 2008. Who destroyed her? Tina Fey destroyed her, more than anybody else did.”
As far as I know, Ziegler is not an adviser of any sort to Palin. But he is a supporter, and he has interviewed her, and has made a film that is highly sympathetic to her, and therefore it is not a stretch to suppose that his thinking reflects the thinking of the Palin camp generally.
And if Palin and her supporters believe her to have been unfairly attacked and slandered by the entertainment media, it would make perfect sense to try to inject a decidedly pro-Palin strain into that same entertainment media. Hence the reality show. (as well as her daughter’s appearance on the apparently popular “Dancing with the Stars”.)
Of course, this is all merely my observations of what may or may not be Palin’s strategy. I have no way of knowing if this is the idea; and anyway I am not even sure if it could work. No one really knows if Nixon’s appearance on Laugh-In helped him, though Humphrey thought it did. Certainly, I know that I do not base my voting decisions on what I see on entertainment and comedy shows. I assume that most other people don’t either.
Rock star politicians. The electorate is getting more and more into voting as fans of someone famous, even if it's famous for being famous, than about the issues.