The Cool Kids

BAKERSFIELD, Calif.—Even Californians get star struck. Two hours north of Hollywood, about 100 people turned out to see America Ferrera and pals proselytize for Hillary Clinton today. Everybody listened to Ferrera and four other actors sing Hillary’s praises, but most people weren’t here for the senator. They were here for souvenirs.

The crowd rushed to the stage after the event, shoving Hillary signs and sharpies toward the actors for autographs. As I tried to talk to a down-to-earth actor from American Pie , we were interrupted three times by fans wanting to take a picture with him. I refrained from telling them that American Pie hasn’t been cool in 10 years.  

But neither has Hillary. After her defeat in Iowa, Clinton and crew realized that the hipper, sleeker Obama was dominating the youth vote. To counteract Obama’s charisma, they teamed Chelsea Clinton up with some Hollywood stars and sent them on a tour of colleges across the country. They’re called the Hillblazers —an unsurprisingly uncool name.

The actors make no secret that they’re campaigning against young people’s perception of Obama. Ferrera said the election doesn’t have to be a popularity contest. “Just because I’m young doesn’t mean I have to submit to catchy campaign slogans and things that make you tear up.” It’s like a warped adaptation of those anti-drug D.A.R.E. programs from elementary school: Just because the cool kids like Obama doesn’t mean you have to.

To their credit, the Hillblazers gave a convincing stump speech. They told touching, insightful stories about Hillary’s character and her personality, barely talking about Hillary’s policies. (When they did, they dwelled on education more than other areas.) They might be dumbing down their speech, but their assignment is to fight the charisma battle in the broader political war—nothing more.  

Alas, even the actors admitted being attracted to the Obama’s campaign magnetism. Simon Woods , a British actor who is volunteering for Hillary, said, “I was slightly jealous of the Obama volunteers. Because they were kind of cooler than we were, they were kind of better looking, and they had better clothes. And they got everybody excited.” The Hillblazers got everybody excited, too—but mostly about autographs, not the candidate.