As the election season is now on us like a barrel of famished leaches, we thought that we’d take a look at the outfit that is ostensibly meant to get the youth of America off the streets and into the voting booths: Rock the Vote. While this is certainly a laudable endeavor—after all, if you don’t vote, then some fat, rich, stupid bastards/bitches are the ones who are going to be deciding on who runs what (and given the facility of the Florida voters in the 2000 presidential election to use a little tool to punch holes in paper, we should all be very afraid of the consequences)—the Rock the Vote website (www.rockthevote.com) seems to be set up by those who are more interested in commerce than in politics.
For example, want to attend the annual Rock the Vote Awards, where the Dixie Chicks (should we interpret this is as a clever dig at the Bush administration or as a function of the number of discs the Chicks have sold?) will be honored? The RTV people certainly think it is important, given its prominence on their site. For a mere $100, you can get a ticket.
Like many other organizations, bands, and even websites (mea culpa), RTV offers gear. How would you like to see your lady wearing a Rock the Vote thong? Yes, for a mere $14.99, that can happen. The Founding Fathers had no idea. (There doesn’t seem to be a male analogue for the thong; the so-called “Rock Star Tee” just doesn’t have the same resonance.) Apparently, if you decide to join the Rock the Vote Street Team, wherein you do things like sign people up to vote at concerts, you can also “Earn CD’s and Win Ticket’s.” A few points about that: Is this about civic responsibility or materialism? Shouldn’t people with a serious interest in politics not be concerned with whether they’ll amass enough points to score some CDs; if that’s the case, they could probably do better sucking down Mountain Dew and collecting points or whatever. And what about an option to “Learn Grammar” (i.e., what’s the deal with the apostrophes)?
What about the issues? Well, Rock the Vote provides info about that. Take, for example, the subject of the economy. About it, the RTV people opine: “Jobs and the Economy: The current job market is one of the worst in memory if you are a young adult. Whether you are leaving high school or college, jobs are scarce and debt is through the roof. Wages are low. Health care and retirement benefits are gone. If you ever doubted the impact of government policy on your life, look at the unemployment figures.” Wow! Breakout the Nobel Prize for Economics! What profound observations. Arguably, the current job market sucks regardless of your age, level of education, or geographic location. Given that that’s the extent of the explanation, I’m puzzled by the “impact of government policy on [my] life.” Or on the unemployment figures. For some reason, three websites are offered for more information, one of which is the AFL-CIO. Its site doesn’t look at all like RTV’s; the whole vibe is, well, different. Neither does that for Campaign for America’s Future, which seems to be something that is straight out of Public Broadcasting, although you can pickup a CAF T-shirt there, too. Finally, there’s the site for UC Berkeley’s Labor Center Program on Young Workers. That site is one that seems to be populated by links to Maoist or at least Leninist sites and documents; I get the sense that any of those people would simply kick the shit out of some mealy-mouthed RTV gear-garbed member. There’s some serious politicking there. Serious, indeed.
By the way: not only did Howard Dean lose the Iowa caucuses, but what was probably a bigger blow to his campaign is that he was annihilated by General Wesley Clark in the Rock the Vote video contest, in which Clark got 46.33% of the votes and Dean just 26.48%. The wheels were off the Dean campaign long before non-RTV members knew it.
As the disclaimer on the site says of the contest: “Don’t get confused about this: the candidate who wins this contest in no way gets an endorsement or any other indication of support from Rock the Vote, at all. Rock the Vote is a strictly nonpartisan organization and does not endorse any candidate for any office anywhere at any time. We just endorse voting. This contest is for entertainment purposes.”
Perhaps that’s the problem with all this: It’s politics for entertainment purposes only.