4 Reasons Why Clooney’s Spat with Steve Wynn Tells the Story of American Politics

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Actors and wealthy business people have too much influence over the American political system. When you put them together, chaos ensues.

Americans devote billions of dollars annually following the personal and public lives of famous actors and musicians as well as wealthy billionaires. There are websites, magazines and TV programs dedicated to celebrity gossip. As little sympathy as I have for coddled Hollywood socialites, I wish that they could have a personal life free from public scrutiny.

The latest story to be cranked out of the gossip machine concerns a verbal spat between actor and political activist George Clooney and Vegas casino magnate Steve Wynn. The topic? The billionaire Republican’s views on Barack Obama didn’t sit well with Clooney, who is a member of the club of influential Hollywood liberals. And no, they weren’t discussing American gambling laws.

While the incident is standard TMZ-Entertainment Tonight fodder, it also illuminates the influence that two distinct social groups have over the functioning of democracy in America.

Wynn’s stance

While Wynn doesn’t get as much publicity as Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson (who is very publicly lobbying the Republican party to push for a ban on online casinos in America) he is a prominent GOP donor and firebrand conservative in his own right.

• George Clooney and Steve Wynn recently got into a heated argument at the Botero restaurant in Las Vegas, with Clooney angrily getting up from the table

• The disagreement stemmed from unflattering remarks Wynn made about President Obama

• While outwardly trivial, the incident highlights the fact that democracy in America is driving by Hollywood and business elites

Wynn doesn’t make much fuss over social issues, backing the Republicans out of the perception that they are more business-friendly than their Democratic counterparts (while the Dems often use fiery economic populist rhetoric, it is difficult to make a concrete case that they promote an anti-business program). His main priorities are keeping tax rates and business costs low, putting him in agreement with most other corporate bigwigs.

The verbal conflict with Clooney stemmed from Wynn’s hosting of the actor at the Botero restaurant in Vegas. The casino owner derided the president due to his sponsorship of the Affordable Care Act, commonly dubbed “Obamacare.” Clooney eventually stormed away from the table, later accusing Wynn of using profanity to describe Obama (more on that later).

Wynn denied using any profanity while describing Obama, but reiterated his opposition to Obamacare. In addition, he chalked up the incident to excessive drinking on Clooney’s part, which the actor later denied.

Clooney’s position

Clooney is the son of liberal journalist Nick Clooney and has been a prominent advocate of the Democratic Party throughout his acting career, counting Barack Obama among his “personal friends.” It should come as no surprise that he would come into conflict with a conservative like Steve Wynn. Clooney told the story thus:

“He called the president an assh – – – … that is a fact … I said the President was my longtime friend and then he said ‘your friend is an assh – – – .’ … At that point I told Steve that HE was an assh – – – and I wasn’t going to sit at his table while he was being such a jackass.”

What this incident says about the state of democracy in America

A drunken dispute between a billionaire casino owner and a Hollywood playboy shouldn’t mean much to real people who have bills to pay and children to raise. But it’s a lot more significant than it appears to be on the surface. In fact, it illuminates how contemporary democracy works in America.

On one side we have the influential Hollywood elite embodied by George Clooney. Famous entertainers hold a significant degree of sway over the public given their popularity and constant spotlight. How many Americans echo their favorite celebrities when commenting on politics? Most do.

And the vast majority of Hollywood elites (which some exceptions like Clint Eastwood) put themselves on the liberal end of the spectrum. Political issues like climate change, gender relations and gay rights became central to the public discourse only after Hollywood picked them up. Academics rarely take the time to engage the rank-and-file. By contrast, entertainers do it for a living.

On the other side, we have the wealthy aristocracy embodied by Steve Wynn. These people tend to back conservative causes (although a surprising amount of wealthy Americans identify as liberals). And by back, I mean they put their money where their mouths are. These people, including casino tycoons like Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson, provide hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign funding each time a national election rolls around. But you probably don’t know much about them, unless you read gambling news like the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

While Hollywood elites use celebrity to push liberal causes, business and financial elites use money to push conservative causes. While celebrities have more influence over the individual voter, business leaders have more access to the politicians themselves. The Clooney’s of the world drive public opinion while the Wynn’s drive policy itself. In my eyes, neither group of people should be trusted with so much influence, and Americans should wake up and start thinking for themselves.

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