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Politics, Pop Culture and Ponderings

Lady Gaga: A Political Tsunami, Waiting to Hit

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Lady Gaga is a political force.

Don’t laugh. Just consider her activism this year. She has taken on several political hot potatoes – the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church, Arizona’s immigration law, California’s same-sex marriage ban, and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

For all of Lady Gaga’s outrageous costumes and catchy dance tunes, the 24-year-old singer, known as Mama Monster to her fans, has alerted the Millennial generation to issues that otherwise may have gone under their radar screens.

With a social media network larger than any politician’s, including President Barack Obama‘s or potential 2012 presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s, Lady Gaga is one of the most influential, and powerful, people in the world. Forbes Magazine ranked her seventh in its recent 2010 list of most powerful women. She didn’t even make the list in 2009.

The Native New Yorker – whose real name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta – has 21 million Facebook fans (Obama has 15 million, Palin two million) and nearly seven million Twitter followers. The numbers increase daily. Her videos recently hit a milestone with one billion views on YouTube. Her adoring fans, also called Little Monsters, track her every move and respond eagerly to her calls for political action.

When she appeared at the MTV Video Music Awards in September, retired gay military officers from the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) escorted her down the red carpet. Her political statement: Repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The SLDN received an instant public relations boost that money cannot buy. More than 100,000 people visited the group’s Web site within 72 hours. Nearly 93 percent were new visitors.

After the show, Ellen DeGeneres invited Lady Gaga to her talk show. Dressed in her now-infamous meat dress, she used the talk show to call for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to schedule a Senate vote on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” She also encouraged her fans to call Reid’s office. Naturally, she also tweeted, “CALL HARRY REID to Schedule Senate Vote.”

Reid returned the tweet, triggering a lovefest between the two: “@ladygaga There is a vote on #DADT next week. Anyone qualified to serve this country should be allowed to do so.”

The pop goddess continued to urge her Little Monsters to call their senators and ask them to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” She then challenged Sen. John McCain and other senators who opposed the repeal in a stark black and white video, where she also showed fans how to call their senators and what to say. She even headed to Portland, Maine, for a rally to try and persuade Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe to support the repeal.

When the bill failed, Lady Gaga vowed to continue her fight for gay and lesbian issues. Her next album will be called “Born This Way” – a shout-out to her LGBT fans, and she recently recorded a duet with Elton John.

Celebrity activism is nothing new. Ever since Bob Geldof’s Band-Aid in the 1980s, Bono has become a dedicated political saint, leading the charge on myriad causes, including debt relief for Africa. In the 1970s, Jane Fonda spoke out against the Vietnam War, and Marlon Brando focused on the Civil Rights Movement and Native American causes.

But Lady Gaga has harnessed the potential of 21st Century social media unlike any of her musical peers or even Washington politicians who pay consultants big money to work social media magic.

“She’s like a tribal leader,” says Gordon Coonfield, associate professor of communication at Villanova University. “Tribal leaders have their own influence and are about bringing networks together. She has her own influence and technology and a new kind of network power that traditional politics can’t really afford to ignore.”

A lot of celebrities tweet, but as Coonfield points out, Lady Gaga takes it a step beyond witty updates and relationship drama. She tweets not only about the cocktail she drank at a bar but also about serious topics.

“We are talking about issues that could change the military and fates of people,” Coonfield says.

Imagine if Lady Gaga decided to lead a march on Washington with millions of Little Monsters in tow. Unlike Glenn Beck, Lady Gaga has a colossal global following. She would shed an international light on her cause célèbre, and her crowd might very well dwarf Beck’s and Jon Stewart’s.

Lady Gaga, who made $62 million last year, likely won’t leave her music career any time soon to launch a run for office. But what if she decided to create GAGAPAC to donate to progressive candidates? One tweet would likely result in hefty donations and free publicity for the candidate of her choosing.

On another front, Lady Gaga might also give Palin’s Mama Grizzlies a run for their fur if she decided to endorse candidates and campaign – even virtually – for them. Who knows? Harry Reid might be on safer ground today if Lady Gaga had helped him in Nevada against Palin-backed Sharron Angle.

First Lady Michelle Obama may be the most powerful woman in the world, but Lady Gaga is not far behind. After all, Lady Gaga is already ahead of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who ranks No. 11. If Lady Gaga maintains her star power into 2012, she could likely unleash her Little Monsters – many who may be voting in their first election – to become a progressive, liberal tsunami in GOTV efforts. And a real worry for conservatives.

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Written by suziparker1313

March 8, 2011 at 10:22 pm

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