Hollywood goes all in for the For the People Act
Hollywood is lining up behind a sweeping, Democrat-backed election reform bill, with some of the country’s biggest stars using their platforms to make a last-minute push for the passage of the For the People Act.
In recent days, scores of celebrities — from Kerry Washington, to Katy Perry and Orlando Bloom, to John Legend — have been pulling out all the stops with high-profile moves, calling on Congress to pass H.R. 1 and S.1.
The legislation would require all states to offer mail-in ballots and automatic voter registration, as well as the implementation of new voting machines. It would also create an independent nonpartisan redistricting commission in an effort to get rid of partisan gerrymandering.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) says the upper chamber will begin debate on the measure Tuesday.
Critics of the legislation, including fellow Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), have called it overly broad and partisan, with some arguing that it would effectively federalize elections. The bill faces an uphill battle in the Senate due to a Republican-threatened legislative filibuster.
But performers are putting public pressure on lawmakers to pass it.
“Little Fires Everywhere” star Washington earlier this week attended a video call alongside Reps. Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.) and Colin Allred (D-Texas) to talk voting rights.
“It’s a tremendously important moment,” Washington said, “We have really important work cut out for us over the next week as the For the People Act really comes up for its first procedural vote in the Senate.”
“From the Emancipation Proclamation to today, when we come together to spark change in this country, we as Black Americans are facing barriers that are purposeful,” the 44-year-old actor said. “Obstacles that are conscious to keep us from fully exercising our right to vote.”
Washington said there is a sense of urgency to the legislation, as GOP-led states nationwide have, after the 2020 election, introduced and passed broad measures that critics say would restrict voter registration and limit mail-in ballots.
“The For the People Act will protect the freedom to vote for all Americans and really fight against this obvious voter suppression effort that’s happening across the country,” Washington said.
She’s not the only entertainer with a massive fanbase to spotlight the legislation.
“Firework” singer Perry and “Pirates of the Caribbean’s” Bloom appeared this week in their first film together — a dystopian short aimed at sounding the alarm about the fate of the For the People Act, which passed the House in March.
In the video from anti-corruption organization RepresentUs, the real-life couple appeared aged and ragged in the year 2055.
“The America you know doesn’t exist in our future. Democracy is dead. We have no voice,” Bloom warns in the film.
Perry, who has more than 10 million Twitter followers, adds, “It started when voter suppression ran wild all over America. The voting rights bill died in the Senate. Polling places closed. We lost our right to vote.”
In a video from the same group released recently, Jennifer Lawrence pleaded with her fans to call lawmakers and urge them to pass the bill.
“Whatever your personal politics are, whatever side of the aisle you find yourself on, you need to know your vote matters and the outcome of our elections are not maneuvered and manipulated,” the “Red Sparrow” actor said.
“It’s going to take a lot of pressure from us to get it to pass,” she said.
The latest star-studded push from Hollywood, Kathryn Cramer Brownell said, follows a long tradition of celebrities targeting specific legislation dating back to the 1940s, when the Hollywood Democratic Committee was formed.
“One of the first issues that that organization tackled was the poll tax, and pushing for legislation to outlaw the poll tax, which was one of the basic structures implemented in Jim Crow to prevent Black voters from voting in the South,” said Brownell, associate professor of history at Purdue University and author of “Showbiz Politics: Hollywood in American Political Life.”
While today a YouTube video or tweet can generate millions of clicks in minutes, stars of their day would connect with the public and dial up the pressure on politicians by taking to the stage. They organized a big event at Los Angeles’s Philharmonic Auditorium where they would “dramatize the congressional record and encourage people to write their senators to try to outlaw the poll tax,” Brownell said.
While genuine passion for the cause could fuel many of Hollywood’s big names, raising their voices about specific legislation could also open up new audiences for them or help buff up their image by showing they’re civically engaged.
But there can also be a downside — potentially alienating fans on the other side of the political aisle, or worse. Brownell noted how many of the celebrities involved in progressive politics in the 1940s were investigated over alleged Communist sympathies.
“Humphrey Bogart very famously had to apologize for his past political activism in order to kind of salvage his career,” she said.
The possibility of backlash hasn’t stopped many stars from using their megaphones when it comes to the For the People Act. Amy Schumer, Eva Longoria, Shonda Rhimes, Mariah Carey, Viola Davis, Camila Cabello, Mark Ruffalo, Connie Britton, Aisha Tyler and Marisa Tomei were just some of the performers who took to social media in recent weeks to make pitches for the bill ahead of the Senate vote.
“State lawmakers all around the country are waging an unprecedented attack on our freedom to vote,” Legend said in a message to his nearly 14 million Twitter followers earlier this month.
“That’s why Congress must pass the For the People Act,” the “All of Me” singer wrote. “We must protect our democracy.”
This happened over the weekend and it’s bigger than just Texas.
State lawmakers all around the country are waging an unprecedented attack on our freedom to vote.
That’s why Congress must pass the #ForThePeopleAct. We must protect our democracy.https://t.co/5gU7qbXHcp
— John Legend (@johnlegend) June 3, 2021
Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.