Celebrities were out in full force this year, but Alyssa Milano, Lin-Manuel Miranda, America Ferrera, John Legend, Mark Ruffalo and Amy Schumer were six of the most effective.
Tuesday's election capped a historically intense campaign season, one that turned political candidates into celebrities and celebrities into political activists. In the end, Democrats took back the House of Representatives and several state governments, and while most of the credit goes to the grassroots activists, Hollywood's leading lights played a supporting role in a lot of the victories.
First and foremost, the industry gave over $45 million in political donations, with individuals largely giving to Democrats. Seemingly anyone who has been near a red carpet in the last half-dozen years participated in some way, with many choosing to pop into well-lit campaign videos produced by big progressive organizations with deep pockets.
Michael Bloomberg's Super PAC Independence USA put up the money for a video directed by Jodie Foster that aimed to encourage women to vote for Democrats, with appearances by an A-list crew that included Cher, Julianne Moore, Ellen Pompeo, Lily Tomlin and Laverne Cox.
The group Swing Left produced a series of videos that included appearances by Kerry Washington, Tracee Ellis Ross, Kathryn Hahn, Lena Dunham, Uzo Aduba, Kevin Bacon, and Kyra Sedgwick, among many others. Michelle Obama, meanwhile, produced a video with Tom Hanks, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw and a multitude of other stars, encouraging people to vote.
And Billy Eichner teamed with Funny or Die for a series of "Glam Up the Midterms" videos starring a who's who of comedy, including Conan O'Brien, Sarah Silverman, Seth Meyers, James Corden and Chelsea Handler.
Taylor Swift, meanwhile, broke years of political silence to endorse Tennessee Democrat Phil Bredesen's campaign for Senate, inspiring a deluge of young people to register to vote. On Instagram, Rihanna reprimanded Donald Trump for using one of her songs at a rally, then endorsed Democrat Stacey Abrams in her ultimately unsuccessful campaign for Governor of Georgia. Beyonce, meanwhile, made a last-minute Instagram play for Beto O'Rourke, who lost a narrow race to Senator Ted Cruz in Texas.
The list goes on and on -- again, anyone who has an agent seems to have appeared in a professionally produced video or at least posted a video on social media. But some stars lent more than a few hours of their time and traveled far beyond a production studio in Los Angeles, traveling across the country to appear at rallies, knock on doors, and do the nitty-gritty work of campaigning for a variety of candidates. Oprah made huge headlines for rallying for Georgia Abrams and knocking on doors around Atlanta, but she wasn't not the only one.
It's hard to calculate just how much influence celebrities had in this election, but one thing is abundantly clear: More Americans were unusually motivated to vote in these Midterm Elections compared to previous years. For example, The New York Times estimated approximately 114 million votes were cast in U.S. House races in 2018, compared to 83 million in 2014. The results of the election also made history. Colorado, for example, elected the first openly gay man as governor when the majority of votes went to Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Polis.
Let's talk about six of the most valuable political players in Hollywood, and why TooFab is considering them MVPs in this historic election.
While she was seen in the Netflix show "Insatiable," Milano spent most of her time on the campaign trail this summer and fall, turning activism into a full-time job. She was in Washington, D.C. to protest at Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court confirmation hearings, canvassed and phone-banked throughout October around California, and just spent the closing days of the campaign getting out the vote and appearing with candidates across Michigan. She even went to Flint, where the water crisis continues unabated, despite plenty of donations from other celebrities.
Milano was also been a consistent presence online, not just via her own busy social media pages, but on behalf of many progressive organizations. She lent her name to emails sent by groups on both national and state groups, including the Working Families Party in New York, which focuses mostly on local races. Milano went as far as to send out messages on social media in favor of different ballot initiatives in a variety of states, which would impact individual laws.
After giving Americans a vital political history lesson with "Hamilton," the actor/singer/writer/producer became engaged with modern-day civics first during the 2016 election and then more prominently in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. He spent the last year rallying and raising funds for Puerto Ricans left behind by the federal government's paltry response to the disaster, and as the election drew near, also focused on the elections on the mainland.
Along with starring in the requisite videos in which every star appeared, Manuel Miranda, like Milano, offered his name and time to specific candidates and niche organizations. He was active with Respeta Mi Gente, a group that works to harness the political power of Latinos, with a focus on close elections in Florida, where many Puerto Ricans moved after the hurricane. He also tweeted on behalf of Antonio Delgado, a former rapper who won a Congressional seat from Manuel Miranda's home district, and lent his name to text messages from the activist group Daily Action.
The "Superstore" star has long been an immigration activist, leading rallies, editing books and creating documentaries in an effort to win more humane asylum and naturalization laws. Ferrera was in the middle of the fierce national outrage over President Trump's policy of separating families and sticking young kids in cages, marching on Washington with protesters.
The activism spilled over to the stretch run of campaign season, as Ferrera continued to travel the country, rallying voters to oppose Republican immigration policy and the incumbents that supported it. She traveled throughout Texas with Alicia Keys and Liza Koshy, then stumped in Miami for Democratic candidates with Eva Longoria, Rosario Dawson, Zoe Saldana, and Gina Rodriguez, an A-List rally, especially for majority Latin districts.
The EGOT winner spent a lot of time in the southeast this fall, focusing most of his political efforts on supporting Stacey Abrams in Georgia and rallying for the successful Amendment 4 in Florida, which will restore the voting rights of 1.4 million reformed felons. He played concerts for Abrams and stumped for her on college campuses across the Atlanta area, while pouring money and time into the Florida campaign.
Legend also returned to his native Ohio to campaign for Democratic candidates there, including gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray (who lost) and Senator Sherrod Brown (who won). He also went out for congressional candidates and advocated for Amendment 1, a proposal that would drastically reduce penalties for drug possession.
Ruffalo has long been as likely to be seen at a political rally as on the big screen. A committed activist, Ruffalo worked hard to bring attention to environmental issues, voting rights, healthcare and matters important to Native Americans. Having spent a lot of time protesting at Standing Rock, he helped focus the national spotlight on North Dakota's disenfranchisement of local indigenous people.
A native of Wisconsin, he waded into elections there, down to making a video for the local state assembly candidate. His attention to down-ballot elections extended to California, where he voiced his support for a proposal that would ban fracking. And as a New Yorker, he endorsed Antonio Delgado, who will now represent him in Congress.
Politics literally run in Amy Schumer's veins -- she's cousins with Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and has appeared at rallies with him over the last few years. While she can be polarizing, she warmed the hearts of liberals and women nationwide by joining the protests at the Kavanaugh hearings; getting arrested at the event won her even more fans.
After the hearings, Schumer continued her furious activism, crisscrossing the nation to stump and canvass for candidates in Las Vegas, Maryland, and her native Long Island, where she helped raise money for Democratic challenger Liuba Grechen Shirley. Schumer was all over social media for Democrats, eschewing jokes for wholehearted and earnest endorsements.
Got a story or a tip for us? Email TooFab editors at firstname.lastname@example.org.