Some political wonks have speculated that President Obama could raise $1 billion dollars for his 2012 campaign after raising $750 million for 2008. But some of his most deep-pocketed fans in Hollywood do not seem as enthusiastic as they were three years ago.
Recall that in 2008, Obama—to the chagrin of John McCain—presided over a $9 million and $11 million Hollywood fundraisers and became the TV/Movie/Music industries most contributed to candidate by far. On the campaign trail Obama literally had to fend off offers from celebrities like George Clooney, Kevin Spacey and Matt Damon who were going out giving stump speeches for the then-senator. In total, Hollywood managed to raise more than $34 million for Democrats that year on the promise of the "Hope" platform.
Fast forward to 2011—past the Obama administration's health care battles, the near-mutiny from the far left over progressive causes and the "shellacking" election. As the President launches his reelection fund-raising efforts, those staunch Hollywood allies don't appear as eager to shill for the President. Over the last several months, generalized celebrity grumbling took several forms:
Example A: Matt Damon (aka the Disappointed A-Lister) The actor who once served as a virtual attack dog for the president (bashing Palin as a "bad fairy tale") and taking time off his schedule to campaign for the Democrat in Florida is now much more disillusioned with Obama. In an interview with CNN's Piers Morgan he relayed that he "no longer hope[s] for audacity" and conceded that he definitely "wanted more" from the President.
Example B: Barbra Streisand and Jane Lynch (aka the Abandoned Progressives) Noted by The Upshot's Holley Bailey, these two formerly enchanted Obama supporters exemplify his problem among progressives: they don't understand why he didn't move faster on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and don't agree with his "evolving" gay marriage stance. Lynch told the Guardian that Obama was a "huge disappointment to me" while Streisand told Larry King "I would have liked to have him use his executive privilege … to get rid of something like 'don't ask, don't tell,'" she said (via The Upshot).
Example C: Gene Simmons (the Unrealistic B-Lister) In an interview last December with the now partially defunct Parker/Spitzer, the KISS frontman lashed out at Obama and said that he'd take his vote back. "In the back of my mind I wanted to show the world that America, the land of slaves...is also the place of hope that can give an African American the chance to lead the most powerful place on the face of the planet," he said. "However, if you take a look at the resume, you couldn't find somebody—in retrospect—more unqualified." Unlike Matt Damon who simply wanted more from the president, Simmons-types probably feel that they've been hoodwinked by the false promises of 2008.
It's important to note the distinction between mere grumbling and actual dampened enthusiasm, of course. And the real question is whether these sentiments will manifest themselves in withheld personal donations, less eye-popping fund-raising events and fewer outspoken endorsements during election season.
Will that happen? The easy bet would be to say "no," for the simple reason that once campaigning is in full-swing and the Republicans have stubbornly nominated a socially conservative candidate, Hollywood will grudgingly write humongous checks to Obama. But, if on the off chance that Obama had to compete with a candidate who didn't assault the sensibilities of Hollywood (say, a Bloombergian type), then we'd say Obama might worry.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.