Coakley vs. Curt Schilling

Former Boston Red Sox star Curt Schilling has been campaigning for Republican Massachusetts Senate candidate Scott Brown. In response, Democratic candidate Martha Coakley called Schilling “another Yankee fan.” Schilling responds here:

I’ve been called a lot of things….

But never, and I mean never, could anyone ever make the mistake of calling me a Yankee fan. Well, check that, if you didn’t know what the hell is going on in your own state maybe you could….

Score one for Schilling here, with the minor caveat that ignorance about pro sports teams doesn’t necessarily equate to general ignorance about the state they’re in.

On a slightly more serious note, I don’t see why anyone should pay any particular attention to the political views of Schilling and other celebrities. As a longtime Red Sox fan, I yield to no one in my admiration for Schilling as a pitcher. I also think he’s an interesting commentator on baseball issues. But if you read his blog (which I very much like for the sports content), I think it’s clear that his expertise on political issues is not much greater than that of the average voter. I would say the same thing for most of the other sports and entertainment industry celebrities who make political endorsements and expound on political issues. Voters should generally discount such statements, except in the rare instances where the celebrity in question has some genuine insight into the subject. That’s not a criticism of Schilling and the other celebrities. He has his field of expertise, and he’s certainly been more successful at his profession than 99.9% of the rest of us have been in ours (myself included). And of course celebrities are entitled to their political opinions. The real fault lies with the voters and media who pay much more attention to celebrities’ political pronouncements than they should.

Why, then, do many voters pay attention to the political statements of celebrities – so much so that candidates find it worth their while to include them in ads? I hate to beat the same horse that I have pounded so often before. But I suspect it has to do with political ignorance and irrationality. Most citizens know little about politics, and have little incentive to rationally analyze the limited information they do have. As a result, many of them are influenced by celebrity endorsements in ways they would not be if they were better informed. Schilling’s endorsement of Brown is unlikely to sway highly knowledgeable voters and those already strongly committed to one side. But in a close race, it may affect the decisions of some swing voters. On average, swing voters tend to have the lowest levels of political information.

UPDATE: In this September post, I wrote about the then-rumored possibility that Schilling might run for the Senate seat himself, and the ways in which political ignorance facilitates campaigns by celebrities and scions of famous families such as the Kennedys and Bushes.