Singers and Political Endorsements

Does it matter when a singer you love publicly endorses a Presidential candidate? What is the impact of such an endorsement?

To accurately assess the impact, we would have to look at four groups of people: Those who already know they would disagree, those who already agree, those who haven’t decided yet, and those who don’t care about politics. Or perhaps we only have to look at three, since those who don’t care about politics often don’t care too much about the political inclinations of their favorite singers.

Let’s start with those who haven’t decided yet. If you are in these shoes, is an endorsement from a favorite Southern Gospel singer likely to impact your vote? I think that in most cases, like with most other endorsements, the answer is no. If a candidate starts picking up a steady stream of endorsements, it can create a sense of inevitability, but individual endorsements from individuals (no matter how prominent) rarely have a significant trajectory on the course of the race.

Moving on to those who disagree: Most singers who will endorse a Presidential candidate are already somewhat vocal about their political inclinations. Rarely does an endorsement come out of nowhere. Chances are these individuals already knew they disagreed with the singer’s political views, and chose to listen to his or her music despite those.

Finally, the impact on those already inclined to agree: While it might not impact their vote, it is quite likely to deepen their connection to the artist. The more common points of shared interest a fan has with a given artist, the more likely they are to move from being a casual fan to a committed fan. Of course, it’s not just politics: Shared interests in anything from hunting to movies to (especially in our genre) points of theological doctrine can have the same effect. 

One other point. Some artists can get away with this more easily than others. For example, an endorsement from a member of Ernie Haase & Signature Sound would more likely to hurt the group’s reach than deepen fan connections, given their on-stage seeker-friendly approach and their audience’s broad demographic. On the other hand, groups like Legacy Five and Greater Vision leave no question that they are primarily appealing to a conservative audience, making Scott Fowler’s 2008 support for Mike Huckabee and Chris Allman’s current support for Newt Gingrich (see here, with follow-up conversations with fans here) far safer moves.

Would a Southern Gospel artist’s endorsement impact your vote? And would it impact your view of the artist?


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71 Letters to the Editor

Southern Gospel Journal welcomes letters to the editor. We will post the most thoughtful and insightful submissions. Ground rules: Don't attack or belittle groups or fellow posters, or advance heresies rejected by orthodox Christianity. Do keep comments positive, constructive, and on topic.
  1. While Gingrich is a great bulldog who’s unafraid to zing the left where it hurts, he ranks lower where I believe it really counts, and that’s personal honor. So on the one hand I understand Chris’s liking for him, but on the other hand I’m a little surprised.

    • If you click the second link, you’ll see further thought from Chris on the topic; he explains that he believes Gingrich has been forgiven for his many past indiscretions.

    • I see both sides here. I’m no Newt Gingrich fan and will not be voting for him, but I can see the perspective of someone who feels he should be forgiven. It’s a matter of whether you believe he is truly a changed individual, and that’s a decision we all have to make for ourselves. I don’t see any reason to get upset over a Gingrich endorsement.

      • Agreed. I will not voting for Gingrich, either, but it also wouldn’t affect my support of a singer who did.

        An interesting theological side discussion, which is related enough to the topic at hand that I’ll deem it sufficiently on-topic: Gingrich is a Catholic now (after growing up a Lutheran and attending a Baptist church during the peak of his career). The Roman Catholic understanding of forgiveness is very different than the Protestant understanding. It’s a more works-based forgiveness; confess to the priest, and once you have done your penance, whether it be a set number of rosaries or burnt candles or something else, you are forgiven.

      • Right…I do think his forgiveness from and relationship with God is a separate issue from the “forgiveness” we may be willing to give in thinking him suitable for public office. The former is a personal and spiritual issue dealing with his heart, while the latter is public issue dealing with his words and deeds as an elected official.

      • I think that, when it comes to matters of forgiveness, sometimes an analogy with James 2’s “I will show you my faith by my works” is apt. Repentance is a heart condition. Forgiveness is either extended in faith that repentance is genuine, or after repentance has been demonstrated through changed behavior.

      • Absolutely. God sees the heart; we can only see the outward evidence. That’s why, though perhaps controversial, James 2 is such an important chapter for us to understand as Christians. We have to make sure our behavior matches what’s in the heart.

  2. Great post, Daniel. I think you really hit on all these groups of people accurately and lucidly.

    I care some about politics, but I like to keep it separate from my gospel music listening. I don’t mind if a singer speaks his mind about stuff, but I try not to think too much about it and just focus on the music and the message.

    It would probably be a different story if a singer came out in support of someone who was totally off base from Christian values, like an Obama. That may be a problem for me, but fortunately, that hasn’t happened yet. Of course, that can be a fine line, between supporting someone way off base, and supporting someone who is somewhat off base. That’s why I try not to let it cloud my enjoyment of the music if I can help it.

    • You have a point; endorsing a Romney instead of a Santorum is one thing, and it might hurt a little. But endorsing an Obama over either could hurt a lot.

  3. This is a timely post, and very thought provoking.

    And yes, an endorsement of a politician who we find unsavory would affect our desire to listen to the singer’s music, and would affect our support of their ministry.

    • How unsavory would it have to be? The unsavoriness of burnt rice, or of spoiled milk?

      🙂

  4. I’ve generally been able to separate the two. If a singer is vocal about their political views, that doesn’t typically stop me from enjoying their music.

    • I personally don’t care if a musician is secular but I do care if they’re Christian. I’d be disappointed if a Christian endorsed Obama.

    • I agree. Politics and religion don’t mix. The two are mutually exclusive.

      • I disagree. Christians should be informed by a Biblical worldview in every area of their life.

  5. Is the working assumption that all fans of Southern gospel music–and Christians for that matter–are Republicans? We are not. In my opinion, artists would do well to not shout their political preferences from the rooftops.

    I do love Chris Allman’s singing and that will never change (and he’s a genuinely nice guy–met him at “the table” a couple of weeks ago], but could no longer tolerate the the constant Newt tweets and clicked “Unfollow” a few days ago (Saturday night to be precise).

    • Let’s not make the discussion specifically about Chris; let’s make this as general as possible.

      • she has a point. if you’re going to publicize your views, you’ve got to be willing to take the heat.

    • I think it’s a very safe assumption that a significant majority, although not all, Southern Gospel fans would identify themselves as politically conservative. Any artist who wants to be public about the political views runs the risk of alienating some fans, but for this genre, being public about being Republican isn’t going to have much of a negative effect. It’s more likely to have a positive effect.

  6. Personally I do not care to have politics mixed with my sg music. I don’t read their blogs and follow them on facebook to be fed their political views and it would be a turn off for me. I am still angry at christians who helped put Obama in office so it is better that I not know who they are.

    • I have a problem with the Department leader in our Sunday School (Baptist church). I wish I didn’t know that he voted to put Obama in there. It caused a big loss of respect for him. He’s a likable guy, but I have to work at it not to think that he is one of the people who put Obama in there and our country is paying for it. I suppose I’d have the same problem with a group who endorsed Obama! That would be real hard.

  7. Fire away. I tire of churches of a more liberal bent that endorse a member of their liking, why can’t an artist or church with conversative members? Let them endorse if they feel led. I’ve seen/heard the way Scott Fowler puts his views into context. Done with taste and sensative to others concerns or beliefs. In the end you are still there to sing, if the opportunity presents itself good.

  8. You have a good point about EH&SSQ.

    Sometimes a endorsement by southern gospel singers is almost like a pastor in a Sunday night service preaching on the subject “The Need to Attend the Sunday Night Service.”

    The folks who need the sermon are not there and the folks who are all ready have alot in common with sermon of the evening.

    The most vocal political activists in southern gospel have a strong fan base with the hard core members of that base tends to share the same political viewpoints.

    Doing it on a “personal” page or blog might not be as effective but alot safer.

    There is fine LINE between educating the voter and solicitation of a voter for artists, non-profits, ministries and businesses to walk.

  9. If Christ were on Earth today as a living breathing man, albiet a holy one from God, He would neither be Democrat or Republican for both are far from Christian. Every 4 years we end up with the same choices evil vs a different form of evil. I likely will not vote this year for I cannot bring myself to vote for either party. They are both corrupt beyond belief, and neither have a vision for the country, but rather a vision for personal power.

    • I agree with you generally, except for the fact that I will be voting, just likely not for a Republican or Democratic candidate.

  10. Just my personal opinion… I think not voting for the lesser of two evils, no matter how much we disagree with the lesser evil, is a vote for the greater evil.

    • Mathematically speaking, the two are actually not equivalent (even putting aside the principle of the matter).

      • Could you elaborate on the mathematical part of the matter?

        Logically, the assertion does rely on circular reasoning; it assumes that you will vote as part of the argument for you to vote. But I hadn’t thought through the further mathematical implications. Math was never my strength!

      • Perhaps I will write a blog post about it closer to election season. 🙂

      • Fair enough! It’s that complex? No wonder I hadn’t figured it out…

      • No, it’s actually not too complex, but it might be valuable/useful for me to discuss it (and the issues surrounding it), in a more prominent place than a comments thread.

      • Makes sense! …but here I was, wondering if I was even more dense than I suspected in the math department… 🙂

    • Here’s the framework within which I think:

      I think in terms of the minimum qualifications someone must have in order for me to have a reasonable expectation that they would fulfill their oath of office and perform their Constitutional responsibilities.

      For all candidates who meet that minimum threshold, then I will be happy to choose the least objectionable one.

      However, “as ones who must give account,” I wouldn’t be surprised if we will have to someday give account to the Supreme Judge of the Universe for our votes. As such, in a race where no candidate meets that minimum threshold, I would far rather be in the position of accounting for a vote not cast than being responsible for a vote for someone who I did not think met the minimum threshold.

      • I understand both your points. (YGG and DM) My point is a bit more than just the mathematics of it all. And I could be wrong. I just think that the idea of “I’ll just not vote” can hurt conservatives. Obviously, 0 doesn’t equal 1. However, a large number of conservatives being absent from the count is a problem.

        I truly believe that’s why we ended up with a candidate last election (McCain) who was destined to fail before he began. The conservative vote was split between Huckabee and Romney. McCain was even further from what we wanted and I think that caused a lot of conservatives to stay home.

      • Thanks! Trust me, I don’t ever take a decision to abstain lightly. I try to keep my list of minimum qualifications as core as possible. It’s not that I’m holding out for the perfect candidate – even Reagan was a little more liberal than my ideal – but that’s why I think of it in terms of minimum qualifications.

      • Perhaps, though there was a definite effort to rally ’round him. But I think it’s unhealthy to start settling for less and less satisfactory candidates until finally we have Republicans who are virtually indistinguishable from their Democratic opponents on key moral issues.

      • I agree, YGG. As long as Americans still vote for someone they don’t like just because they like the other one less, the current 2-party structure will remain in place, no matter how bad the two parties get.

        I don’t advocate abstaining, but I absolutely advocate voting for someone besides a “major party” candidate if neither are good for the job. All we need is several million more Americans to break off that 2-party train.

      • In my opinion, not voting at all is not an option. If I don’t vote, and I have voted for teh “lesser of two evils”, then I really have no room for complaint as I did not take part in the process.

        In answer to the question, can or should a SGM singer endorse a candidate, why not?

      • But would you vote for someone who did not have the personal integrity to do the job, just to say that you had voted?

  11. Good way to put it David. I really vote for their hearts. And what is good. Not for their political parties these days.

    • Conservative Catholics who rank the pro-life cause as an important issue are more likely to gravitate to fellow Catholic Santorum.

  12. I recently sought input from one singer who is with a conservative group, because of the GOP candidates running. There are issues such as Mormanism, ethics, Catholocism, etc., etc. I really respect the individual singer whom I wrote, and I wanted to know his thoughts. It turned out that he was for the same candidate that I “thought” I wanted. But his endorsement with his vast knowledge convinced me that was the way I wanted to go. I really think if he’d made an argument for the other candidate in question, he would have persuaded me. It is because his arguments were substantive, knowledgeable, and because I respected the man I asked.

  13. Incidentally I believe the debate over Gingrich will ultimately be moot because Romney is the best bet to win the primaries. I’m not sure I could stomach voting for him in the general though. Maybe if I held my nose….

  14. I probably wear my heart on my sleeve . . . and I buy a lot of SG products . . . but there is at least one artist that I enjoy but will not patronize because of his/her outspokenness on political issues.

    • Why? Because you disagree with said views, or you consider it a minus to be politically outspoken regardless of side?

      • Given the political bent of most SG groups, and John’s views, I think it would be quite safe to say he would disagree with said views. 🙂

      • It’s not disagreement with the views. It’s the unkind spirit with which the said views are expressed.

      • To further clarify (sorry, I posted before I read Daniel’s comment) . . .

        While I may disagree with the views of many SG groups, the lack of kindness by a select few(I’m being nice here) is what pushes me over the edge.

      • I can understand and sympathize with where you’re coming from there. A certain candidate in the GOP primary has excessively enthusiastic supporters, a number of whom are bugging me nearly daily on Facebook to support their candidate, even after I’ve told them kindly but quite clearly that I won’t. That sort of thing can be a big turn off!

      • There are those on both sides of the aisle who do that. I know you didn’t specifically mention one side (but your example is about people whose views are opposite your own), but I wanted to put that out there.

  15. Whether singing, preaching, or teaching, the further you can stay away from politics the better. I believe in taking theological stands but many times what we think is clear cut theologically in favor of our political stance is not as clear cut as we might think if we are challenged by people who are truly educated both politically and theologically. You can hurt the message of greater importance (the gospel) by focusing on the political.

    Or as I like to say, “Shut up and sing.”

  16. I’m pretty sure that Chris has never announced his choice of Newt in a concert. I don’t see a problem with him announcing it on twitter or facebook. If you’re truly a “friend”, then you should be ok with politcal opinions. If you’re not a true “friend”, you can fix that real quick.

    If he came out in favor of Obama, I’d probably hide all of his comments from my page. However, a SG singer coming out in favor of a candidate that supports the destrucion of 1 million babies/year and thinks gay folks can get married would probably last about 6 months on stage. The boos and jeers would finally force him into hiding for the rest of his life. So I guess I don’t have to worry about this actually happening.

    • I’m pretty sure you’re right, because I’m pretty sure he hardly ever talks much on stage, let alone venturing into controversial waters. Gerald Wolfe isn’t afraid to bring up politics, but he also knows his audiences well, and knows what they can handle. He stays safely within those limits.

      Speaking of knowing audiences, I think you’re entirely correct that Southern Gospel is too conservative to support someone who openly promoted Obama on stage.

      You also have a great point that it’s one thing for someone to express views on a personal account, and that’s entirely different than expressing those views on stage.

      • Daniel stated
        “Speaking of knowing audiences, I think you’re entirely correct that Southern Gospel is too conservative to support someone who openly promoted Obama on stage.”

        That is why they are still singing southern gospel on stage and their choice is the President of the United States.

      • I have to respectively disagree with you on this subject, my friend. I do not bring political discourse into our concert settings. When we’re on the platform, we’re there to deliver the greatest message ever known to man, and to hopefully bring some joy into the lives of the people in the audience.

        I would also say that being a Gospel Singer doesn’t prohibit me from being an involved citizen. I believe it’s every citizen’s responsibility to be involved in the process, to try to make our nation the best it can be. That involvement, however, shouldn’t be an issue on the platform.

        I do have friends who don’t mind injecting politics into their program, and that’s certainly their privilege. I’m not embarrassed by my opinions, and I don’t mind sharing them with anyone who asks. Thankfully, I’ve never had an audience stand up and unanimously demand a political endorsement from me. LOL

        Other than to encourage people to vote, which I believe to be every citizens responsibility, you won’t hear me, or anyone else on our bus, make ANY official political endorsements on behalf of our group. There’s a time and place for all things, but a Gospel concert is not the right time, or the right place for politics.

      • I’m sorry – I really thought I remembered you having brought up political issues before at concerts I’ve attended. I must be remembering wrong, and I do apologize for remembering wrong!

      • No apology necessary, friend! You may have remembered one of our personal conversations or email exchanges. No harm done. If you can recall a specific, questionable incident, please share it with me. If I have made a mistake, I will acknowledge it and apologize for it.

        Just to be clear… I am very open to sharing my political views with people, but not from a concert or Church platform. I do try to keep ministry about ministry. I do have a personal Facebook page that I post to regularly, and a personal Blog (which I rarely post to). I don’t mind posting political comments there. However, you haven’t seen any political posts or comments on GV’s Facebook page… and you won’t.

      • Even if you said anything political, I’m sure none of it was questionable in the slightest!

        Since you mentioned the personal blog – perhaps that is what I remembered, and mixed up with having heard at a concert.

        Since you make a point of avoiding it on stage, I’m sure you’re right, and my memory just played tricks on me.

    • Go Gardener!! Only thing is though, you’re surrounding a bit “divisive” there… you sure you want to “demonize the enemy” like that? 😆

      • Um….Yes 🙂

  17. I always try to remember that the singers are citizens and voters, just like me or anybody else. They’re perfectly entitled to their views, whether I agree with them or not. I’ve disagreed with cousins or friends over politics before, but we always respect each other’s right to “endorse” whichever candidate we choose. I try to adhere to the same practice when it comes to Gospel singers.
    Query: Didn’t the Singing News endorse Gingrich? I think I remember getting an email from them stating that they were backing him.

    • I didn’t get the email, but I thought it was a paid eblast advertisement.

      • You are correct; I had failed to notice the small print at the top.

      • Ah!

        It’s sobering to think how it could have left that impression on more than just you. It is easy to be misunderstood, especially when it comes to this sort of thing.

  18. When bluegrass and gospel artist Ralph Stanley endorsed and made commercials for Obama I lost all desire to listen to his music.

  19. Daniel, I could not answer you directly where you asked if I would vote for a person without moral convictions just to say that I had voted. In one word, “NO.” I’m having a huge problem with Newt Gingrch as his so-called conservative credentials are in question. Combine that with his lack of morals, and I would say that I will vote in November; not for him or Obama (I have renamed him Oneterma). If it came to taht, I’d write in the name John Wayne. Even though he’s been dead for almost 35 years, he would do a better job than either of the two mentioned above. 🙂

  20. Charlie Waller’s letter to the fans (on the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion website) says in promoting his 25th anniversary 3-day event in August 2012: “No politicians. No preaching. It’s a Sangin.”

  21. People in high profile places of leadership and involved in political activity are constantly facing the scenario outlined by Gerald Wolfe earlier in this thread.

    The confusion arises when people have a hard time distinguishing the difference between public/community service and expressing personal opinions not reflecting views of any given entity.

    It is just like a president of your local Chamber of Commerce giving an PERSONAL (sorry about the caps, Daniel) worked for President Obama while the national organization, United States Chamber of Commerce, generally considered to be a conservative organization, did work otherwise.

    Back in the good days of the United States Jaycees, it was a big issue for the local Jaycees chapters as a majority of chapters became very active in their communities thus ruffling the feathers of the town fathers.

    It is because of the “guiltily by association’ relationships that confuses the political process all the time.

  22. I couldn’t care less who the entertainers vote for. I wouldn’t be influenced in the least. However, it wouldn’t affect my support for them regardless. Opinions are like belly buttons, we all have them. In the end, I’ll vote for whom I think best represents my views, not who some entertainer or celebrity endorses.

  23. One other thing and I’m done, I like Gingrich, I do, but I don’t know, with his history, where he gets off casting aspersions at Mitt Romney’s integrity.