The Politics of ‘Duck Dynasty’


Jindal and Cruz

The news that “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson was suspended by the A&E cable network for comments he made in a GQ interview seems to have infiltrated the political sphere.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Robertsons’s plight has received support from a few potential presidential candidates.

The Washington Post reports that Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana (the state that’s home to “Duck Dynasty,” incidentally) and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas both voiced their support of Robertson and criticism of the channel.

At his official web site, Jindal’s statement reads:

Phil Robertson and his family are great citizens of the State of Louisiana. The politically correct crowd is tolerant of all viewpoints, except those they disagree with. I don’t agree with quite a bit of stuff I read in magazine interviews or see on TV.  In fact, come to think of it, I find a good bit of it offensive. But I also acknowledge that this is a free country and everyone is entitled to express their views.  In fact, I remember when TV networks believed in the First Amendment. It is a messed up situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh, and Phil Robertson gets suspended.

Meanwhile, Cruz was reported to have written on his Facebook page, “If you believe in free speech or religious liberty, you should be deeply dismayed over the treatment of Phil Robertson.”

Both are considered possible contenders for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination and, as the Post reports, this could be a clear play for evangelical conservative voters, showing a bit of solidarity with their values or at least the right to express those values.

Still, it’s almost certain that the 2016 presidential election won’t have much to do with “Duck Dynasty” or any other flash-in-the-pan cultural controversy in 2013. This is probably best seen as an easy way to send a signal to existing supporters among each politicians’ conservative base. After all, key evangelical organizations have been quite active in responding to the controversy:

As of late afternoon Thursday, there were around 1 million mentions of the “Duck Dynasty” or Robertson on Twitter. Anonline petition organized by the group Faith Driven Consumer, which promotes Christian-friendly companies, had more than 50,000 signatures. And the Faith & Freedom Coalition called on its members to launch an e-mail and phone campaign to let A&E know they will boycott the network until Robertson is reinstated.

A simple statement has the benefit of not really meaning much in the long run, but gaining some points in the short-term. Even if it became a campaign issue in 2016, at the primary or general election level, it alone will not sway enough voters to make much of a difference. It will be, like most of the day-to-day controversies of campaign season, a minor blip rather than a major part of most voters’ decision-making.

[photo credit: By Gage Skidmore (Flickr: Bobby Jindal)]

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