Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service
“Vote for Kerry!” These were the last words from Ben Gibbard, lead singer of indie rock band Death Cab for Cutie, at their concert at a recent Seattle festival.
Death Cab is one of many bands promoting democracy and the power of voting on a new CD called Future Soundtrack for America, co-sponsored by MoveOn.org. Funds will go to progressive groups like Music for America, Common Assets, Sierra Club and others.
These partisan and nonpartisan groups alike are hoping rock music will inspire young voters to get involved in America’s political process. Unfortunately, many people who are still searching for a reason to care about who holds significant government positions.
These bands and political groups give my generation the information we need to make important choices. If connecting elections to rock music is what it takes to spur political excitement among my peers, I’m all for it.
Music for America sponsors concerts, comedy shows and festivals throughout the nation to encourage music fans to incorporate political participation into their daily lifestyle.
MfA urges young people to get involved, by volunteering for a campaign or simply chatting with friends about the issues and candidates.
It focuses on issues that affect music lovers and young voters, like file sharing and Federal Communications Commission restrictions. It also tackles employment and our future job prospects, health care, fighting for the public interest over corporate profits in the media, fighting the war on terror and the war on drugs, and finding new ways to preserve the environment.
MfA is helping our generation understand how much of our future is in the hands of politicians.
Another group trying to gear up young voters is Punkvoter, a politically progressive organization that recruits disenchanted voters through punk music. The political persuasion is apparent in the titles of its two records, Rock Against Bush Volumes 1 and 2.
Punkvoter’s music speaks to the failures of the Bush administration and why we, as young people, should care. Punkvoter.com compares the 537 votes Al Gore lost by in Florida to a small punk-rock concert. An average 1,000-person show would have been enough for a solid Gore win.
Yet another political group “made up of nonpolitical people” is No Vote Left Behind, which hails from Seattle and raises money for the Democratic National Committee by putting on shows. (Check out www.novoteleftbehind.net for details about shows.)
Unlike Punkvoter, this group reports to the Federal Election Commission and therefore faces stricter guidelines.
Critics of groups like these say organizers are putting words into the mouths of delirious rock fans. I say they are promoting democracy and combining political involvement with issues music lovers care about.
These bands and organizations bring the election home, after an appalling voter turnout of 18 to 29-year-olds of 2000 – 38 percent! – I applaud people in the music community who are doing their best to excite young voters.
While the main goal of some of these groups may be to boot Bush out of the White House, I hope these efforts will not only result in higher voter turnout, but also in an increased awareness about young people’s potential power and say in public policy.
Kailani Koenig-Muenster is a writer for NEXT of The Seattle Times. She can be reached at NEXT@seattletimes.com.