No one expected liberal Hollywood to fall in line behind the GOP’s presidential pick.
What we’ve seen in the Age of Trump, though, leaves the industry’s past progressive posturing in the dust.
In short, stars are playing the Hitler card against the real estate mogul turned reality show star turned politician. And there’s little sign they’ll stop before Election Day.
The big question remains: will it make a difference? Or have celebrities pushed their GOP hate too far this time?
First, Louis CK released an open letter to Republicans begging them to vote against Donald Trump.
“It was funny for a little while. But the guy is Hitler. And by that I mean that we are being Germany in the ’30s. Do you think they saw the sh-t coming? Hitler was just some hilarious and refreshing dude with a weird comb over who would say anything at all.”
Then, Sarah Silverman greeted fans of TBS’s “Conan” by arriving on set dressed as Adolf Hitler. And Silverman’s Hitler wasn’t happy being compared to the real estate mogul.
Now, it’s Tom Green’s turn. The once red-hot comic released a satirical video on the liberal FunnyOrDie.com site starring himself as Trump. And guess what? He’s invoking Nazi themes, too.
Are these the kind of messages that cut through the media haze in 2016?
Political scientist Lauren Wright, a board member of the White House Transition Project, says it’s very hard to determine if a single celebrity declaration changes any hearts or minds.
Yes, celebrities excel at drawing attention to themselves and their arguments. That doesn’t necessarily translate to more, or less, votes for a candidate — even after the Hitler card is dealt, according to Wright.
In fact, Trump hasn’t even been severely damaged after members of his own party, like talker Glenn Beck, made the Trump-Hitler connection.
“If that line of attack hasn’t moved the needle coming from your own party, it’s unlikely [to do so] coming from outside,” says Wright, author of “On Behalf of the President.”
It’s also a challenge changing anyone’s mind on Trump. You’re either wearing a bright red “Make America Great Again” hat, or you’re sharing Trump jokes on Twitter, she adds.
Still, Charles Zelden, professor of history and political science at Nova Southeastern University, contends Hollywood’s incendiary rhetoric might matter. If that proves true, you can partially thank social media.
It’s one thing for Silverman’s Hitler shtick to hit the airwaves. It’s quite another if she or a fellow star shares it on Twitter.
Her followers “already have a predilection to listen to the star when they speak on the latest headlines,” Zelden says. Sharing these messages might mean reaching potential voters “who might not have gotten the message elsewhere.”
Those followers could dig deeper into the election news reports. That, in turn, can transform a passive citizen into a voter.
“If people they respect are making these analogies, it might result in the individual paying more attention, or being motivated,” he says.
Then again, Trump has a way of trashing conventional wisdom.
“He could use it as a way of motivating his base, but his base is pretty motivated [already],” he says. “Maybe it’ll impact undecided voters who share the values of the cultural elite.”
The old saw once said it’s a mistake to play the Hitler card in politics. Candidates and established politicians alike typically get burned for doing so, says Andrew Ricci, vice president at the D.C.-based PR firm Levick.
Ricci, who has developed communication strategies for numerous candidates, says comedians aren’t held to that strict standard.
Platforms like Twitter and Instagram offer celebrities an irresistible way to reach their fans. And stars who might think twice about sharing a strident political view might do so out of impulse control.
In the not so distant past, people declined to discuss politics in “polite company,” Ricci notes. Now, when a star has hundreds of thousands of followers, the urge to speak out is tough to ignore.
He just thinks a shock comic like Sarah Silverman might not impact potential voters like some of her peers.
“Some [stars] are known for their social causes, like Bono and George Clooney,” he says. “Others commenting on this are not seen as social policy leaders. They don’t have much impact.”
Zelden says, even if many ignore Hollywood’s Hitler-Trump connections, it still could make a difference.
“The key to this election is turnout,” Zelden says. “If Hollywood results in 2 percent more people interested in politics out of 300 million, that’s significant.”