Lady Gaga and the 2012 RNC: The GOP Tried and Failed to Buy Celebrities


There are many things that the Republican Party has been able to buy. Internet advertising, paid organizers, canvassers, robocalls to remind people to vote, and massive computer systems to crunch the data they were getting from field organization were all conquered on the back of the almighty dollar. However there is one gap that money has been unable solve: the pop culture gap.

The Republican Party has always been interacting at deficit when it comes to pop culture. But a recent Washington Examiner story just reveals how desperate the Republican Party was to close the gap. According to a lawsuit filled by American Action Network, a GOP fundraising organization, against Cater America LLC, a production company who was charged with staging entertainment just outside the conventions doors, it is claimed that Lady Gaga was offered $1 million to perform at the Republican Nation Convention back in 2012.

According to emails obtained from the court documents, Gaga was to be offered a slot on the first day “honoring women who run for public office." Pete Meachum, AAN’s director of development, apparently wanted to sweeten the pot, instructing Rob Jennings, head of Cater America, to “tell them that $150,000 will go towards a domestic violence shelter.”

Even ignoring the unlikeliness that Gaga, one of the highest and most viable pro-LGBT activists in the popular consciousness, would have actually accepted the offer, such an episode illustrates the seriousness of pop culture gap that the Republican Party suffers. Other artists offered slots included country artist Dolly Parton and rapper Pitbull, who was asked to play an event for the Hispanic Leadership Network. Both turned down the offers.

The Republican National Convention eventually had to settle for acts such as Journey, 3 Doors Down, and American Idol winner Taylor Hicks. In the wake of their performance 3 Doors Down lead singer Brad Arnold said, “We've never really been a very political band.” Taylor Hicks also said “I don't really talk about my party or political affiliations. I’m an entertainer; that’s what I was invited to do. Seeing everyone being excited about American political process is great.”

Even the higher levels of the Republican Party are painfully aware of the pop culture deficit. The Republican Growth and Leadership Report included as one of their recommendations that the Republican Party should, “Establish an RNC Celebrity Task Force of personalities in the entertainment industry to host events for the RNC and allow donors to participate in entertainment events as a way to attract younger voters.”

Indeed up and coming Republicans are starting to understand the importance of pop culture fluency. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) makes sure to tell us that his three favorite hip-hop songs are N.W.A’s “Straight Outta Compton,” Tupac Shakur’s “Killuminati,” and Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” and that Pitbull is not a poet like Tupac. Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) had the entrance music to his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference be “Enter Sandman” by Metallica. Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), the former 2012 vice presidential candidate, stated he was a Rage Against the Machine fan and that his iPod playlist “starts with AC/DC and ends with Zepplin” during the 2012 presidential campaign.

Closing the pop culture gap will be a long and difficult process for the Republican Party. We probably will not be seeing Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) staging a photo with Drake any time soon or playing bass in a band like Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and his band Capitol Offense. However through the sheer effects of time should see the Republican Party catching up on pop culture. To the late 90s at least.