Let Cardi Be
Until last Wednesday, a Google search of musician and rapper Cardi B might have returned results about her music, feuds with other artists, and charismatic interviews. Now, articles about Cardi B are also about something else: politics. Over the past few years, politics and celebrity have become increasingly aligned. With Kanye West unveiling his support of President Trump and the explosion of the #MeToo movement, it seems like it is becoming harder to distinguish between entertainment and politics, the non political and the political. This new shift in the country’s political landscape has come with mixed reactions. From celebrities like Saturday Night Live’s Pete Davidson to university students like this Daily Tar Heel writer, many are arguing that those who are not directly involved with politics or who may not be experts on a subject should not comment on it. The Editorial Board believes just the opposite. In fact, not only do we believe it’s permissible for non-political actors to comment on political proceedings — we believe it is a fundamental aspect of political participation in a modern democracy.
Understanding the issues is important, but one does not need a degree in political science to display legitimacy in discussing politics. The idea that one must meet certain qualifications to do so is fundamentally anti-democratic, elitist, and exclusionary. In many cases, it is used selectively to silence opposition and belittle those considered unworthy of substantive political participation. Take, for instance, conservative commentator Tomi Lahren, who chided Cardi B for commenting on the state of the government shutdown. Lahren regularly condemns celebrities for talking about politics, but ended her tweet with a #MAGA2020 chime, apparently neglecting to consider how the President backed by the same slogan was a celebrity prior to running for office. The exchange between Lahren and Cardi B received almost as much attention as Cardi’s original video, with even Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez getting involved. The qualifications of a celebrity should have no bearing on their right to discuss politics. As voting citizens, celebrities have as much a stake in our government and democracy as anyone else.
Moreover, those constantly in the public eye have the platform to publicly discuss political issues and create a conversation among demographics where traditional politics has failed. Cardi B’s well-timed post on Instagram elevated a political conversation to an audience that may not have engaged with politics beforehand. Kanye West did the same. In creating such a dialogue, they educate and encourage people to inform themselves on what’s happening. With voter turnout rates at their lowest point in a decade, we should be encouraging any and all political engagement. Major issues within our current political system require significant attention. Celebrities have the voice and the platform to bring important issues that may have otherwise been ignored or overlooked by traditional media outlets, to the forefront of national discourse. This is tremendously important in the face of such important issues as gerrymandering and anti-democratic power grabs in North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Michigan — issues that will affect the young adults of today in perpetuity. An aware citizenry is vital in the fight against such actions.
Given their massive platforms, some suggest that celebrities shouldn’t talk politics due to the risk of their spreading misinformation on a large scale. However, when celebrities are wrong, like when B.o.B. tweeted that the earth was flat, people rarely hesitate to let them know. Occasionally making a mistake should not exempt non-political actors from having opinions, and even at that rate there are mechanisms to check. The good that non-political actors do by creating a political conversation is important, and should not be stopped. If only those considered “qualified” have the privilege of political discourse, what does that say about our democracy? Moreover, who gets to decide what “qualified” really means? So, please, Cardi B, continue to talk about politics on Instagram, and everyone else: leave her alone and let her speak — you just might learn something.