Celebrities in elective office isn’t a wholly new phenomonon — remember Ronald Reagan? — but Al Franken’s election to the U.S. Senate surely made politically active left-wing celebs reconsider the option. After all, if even Al Franken could be elected to high office, is their any celeb who couldn’t?
Here are a few liberal Hollywood-types you might just see on the ballot in the coming years:
Susan Sarandon has been politically active throughout a Hollywood career that has spanned four decades. The 63-year-old actress is nearly as well-known for her fervent political views as her enduring sex appeal. According to Ms. Magazine, for Sarandon, “political activism is not a pastime but an inherent part of her life-part of her soul.”
Together with longtime partner Tim Robbins (12 years her junior), Sarandon has been a champion of liberal causes, including fighting for women’s reproductive rights, railing against the death penalty and fighting against child sex trafficking. Sarandon acknowledges that she is sometimes known as much for her political leanings as her acting skill. As she says: “I have become kind of a joke in terms of activism for some people. But it is like worrying if your slip is showing when you’re fleeing a burning building. You have to prioritize.”
Sarandon said she would step up her political involvement after her children left the nest, and she’s been doing just that in recent years. An early supporter of AIDS activism, Sarandon has been a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 1999 and is now on the board of advisers for the Yéle Haiti Foundation. A native New Yorker, Sarandon has laid the groundwork for a New York City or state political bid through her work with the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen and Habitat for Humanity in New York City.
Sarandon also served as the co-chair of the National Steering Committee for Ralph Nader in 2000. But she has made amends with the Democratic Party since then, throwing her support behind John Kerry in 2004 as one of the “Nader 2000 Leaders” who signed a petition urging liberal voters to stay loyal to the Democratic Party.
Pro: Since ending her 23 year long May-December romance with Tim Robbins, Sarandon has thrown herself into her charity work — and into the arms of men even younger than Robbins. In 2012, she could galvanize the American cougar vote.
Con: The tough road of political campaigning might be a bit much for Sarandon, who has told Time magazine: “I’m a little bit lazy—I suffer from inertia.”
NEXT: Sen. Affleck?
If Washington is “Hollywood for ugly people,” Ben Affleck could be considered “smart for Hollywood.” The chiseled actor may have some cinematic flops under his belt, but he has charmed the pants off of the politically active celebrity set.
Unlike some of his more idealistic fellow actors, Affleck is a staunch defender of the Democratic Party. After the 2000 presidential election, he notably said: “I hope Nader can still sleep”.”
While he might not appreciate the comparison, there’s another former actor who had better luck at the voting booth than on the big screen. And as Reagan learned, square jaws can be as effective at winning votes as they are winning film roles.
Affleck hasn’t spoken about running for office recently, though he once told GQ: “My fantasy is that someday I’m independently wealthy enough that I’m not beholden to anybody, so I can run for Congress on the grounds that everyday people should be in government.”
Could 2012 be his year?
Pro: Affleck comes from Massachusetts, a Democratic state that loves a good dynasty. With the Kennedy clan slowly running out of legacy candidates, Republican Scott Brown swept in on Tea Party sentiment to take Ted Kennedy’s vacant Senate seat. Affleck could be the Hollywood hero Massachusetts Democrats are waiting for.
Con: As anyone one who has ever seen “Gigli” knows, authenticity is not Affleck’s best skill.
Ed Begley Jr.
The star of “Living With Ed” has become the poster boy for the green movement in many ways. Al Gore may get more attention for his environmental activism and best selling work an “An Inconvenient Truth,” but Ed Begley Jr. doesn’t have to worry about offsetting his private jets and multiple homes by planting trees in the rain forest.
The actor practices what he preaches, forcing his wife to live in a 1,600 square foot home powered by solar energy. He shows up at red carpet events on his bicycle, and avoided paying for gas for the decade between 1989 and 1998. With his environmentalist friend Bill Nye, Ed is in a competition to see who can have the lowest carbon footprint.
With a motto of “take action yourself,” Ed has got the bonafides to back his green efforts. He’s served as chairman of the Environmental Media Association and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. He’s also worked with the Thoreau Institute, the Earth Communications Office, Tree People and Friends of the Earth and others.
According to Bobby Kennedy Jr., “He’s like a West Coast cadet who gets up every morning and says ‘reporting for duty.’”
Pro: What could be better PR than an electric campaign bus?
Con: Campaigning for office seems like the least environmental friendly activity around. The amount of excess CO2 generated alone could go pretty far toward ruining Begley’s low carbon footprint.
NEXT: See which Baldwin brother has expressed interest in running for Congress
After a bitter divorce with Kim Basinger and numerous cinematic flops, Baldwin resuscitated his flailing acting career with frequent and hilarious hosting gigs on Saturday Night Live and a starring turn on Tina Fey’s “30 Rock.” If Baldwin can bounce back from leaving threatening voicemails on his 11-year old daughter’s cell phone and a completely stagnant film career to become Tina Fey’s favorite ratings-generating actor, he can have a comeback from anything.
Add to that Baldwin’s Blue Dog Democrat credentials and the fact that he has a habit of telling the press that he’d like to run for office — and you have a potential candidate. As he told CBS, he has something in common with Fred Thompson: “I’m getting pretty close to the ‘Law & Order’ judge phase of my career, you know…There’s no age limit on running for office, to a degree. Something I might do, one day.”
Moreover, Baldwin has possibly already gotten all his bad press out of his system. It’s hard to imagine anything he could say that would rank lower than telling a preteen: “You have humiliated me for the last time!” and “I’m gonna let you know just how I feel about what a rotten little pig you really are. You are a rude, thoughtless little pig, OK?”
Baldwin says he’s learned his lesson: “You can pretty much bet everything you own that I would never leave another voicemail message for my daughter that wasn’t just like something out of a Rogers and Hammerstein score. ‘How are you today, my little darling.’”
Pro: If Baldwin can get America to love him on “30 Rock” after those voicemails, he can bounce back from anything.
Con: All of his angry bon mots could be easy fodder in a debate.