In an interview with Providence College published Feb. 1, actor Hill Harper said: “Through arts, I could impact social justice movements, and I wouldn’t have to get as political, but I could do it artistically. I’m not sure that’s the case anymore because people have hijacked politics.”
Harper, 56, currently considering a run for the Michigan U.S. Senate seat next year to replace outgoing Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, is an accomplished actor with Ivy League credentials, including a law degree from Harvard University. He lives in the Charles Fisher mansion in Detroit.
Hill has served as the face of many important causes, such as being the national spokesman for the Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights. He was a presidential appointee under former President Barack Obama.
But despite a list of accomplishments and community empowerment programs including mentorship of young people, the issue remains whether the Iowa-born African American whose work transcends Hollywood has the chops to deliver in elected office.
Are voters going to be drawn more to his celebrity than his standing on the bread and butter issues?
Is he ready for a grueling campaign if he chooses to go up against Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Lansing, and others vying for the office?
“Hill Harper understands the critical importance of this U.S. Senate seat and is doing comprehensive due diligence to that effect,” said Rick Michaels, a political consultant for Harper. “He is meeting with community members and leaders throughout the state to fully understand their most urgent concerns. Harper takes this process seriously and is committed to taking whatever time is needed to understand how he can best serve the people of Michigan.”
Celebrities sometimes don’t make for good and effective politicians even if they are voted into office simply because of their name and popularity.
Detroit has had its own share of celebrity politicians who used their fame to ride into office. Motown singer Martha Reeves and former TV personality Charles Pugh are examples of famous Detroiters who were elected to the Detroit City Council. Reeves was basically ineffective. Pugh left office in disgrace.
“Hill Harper is not a politician. He would be a rare senator that is not beholden to political institutions. He is in fact running against an establishment that has done everything in its power to hand pick Debbie Stabenow’s successor,” progressive Democratic activist Mike McCurdy said. “Absent Hill’s candidacy, Democrats are very likely to have little in the way of a choice as to who their candidate for senate is.”
McCurdy helped lead the insurgency campaign that got Attorney General Dana Nessel the unlikely Democratic nomination during her maiden 2018 campaign to be Michigan’s top law enforcement officer.
Politics is not entertainment sport. A Harper candidacy will give some the impression that celebrity status takes precedent over governance and the needs of the people.
“Hill Harper has a proven track record of effective, and selfless service to his community. From his work writing letters to and mentoring incarcerated young men and the Manifest Your Destiny Foundation to his ambassadorships to organizations such as One Fair Wage, and The Innocence Project we see a desire and willingness to put himself out there heart and sole to fight for a better world,” McCurdy said. ”
If he is serious about becoming the next Democratic senator, Harper will have to do more than depend on celebrity powers to make the case before voters.
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