Thursday, March 23Welcome

Opinion | How MTV’s ‘Rock the Vote’ Campaign Ruined Politics

Presidential candidate Bill Clinton on MTV’s “Rock the Vote” in 1992. (L. Cohen/WireImage)


Jim Geraghty is Senior Political Correspondent for the National Review.

Everyone has a theory as to why American politics sucks today.

More specifically, I condemn the music channels’ “Rock the Vote” campaigns of the early 1990s. It’s the moment a popular culture tastemaker decides that the widespread perception that politics isn’t cool is a problem that needs to be solved.politics had to be Made How nice. So it’s not boring.

Call politics today whatever you want. But it’s not boring. You hear the advocacy of “Rock the Vote”: It’s unfair! Politics and entertainment have long overlapped. myself?”

But there is a difference between politicians who try to entertain and those who see their role primarily as entertainer. This is where “Rock the Vote” comes into play. An organization of that name, founded by music industry executives in 1990 to combat censorship of song lyrics, he worked with MTV to win the youth vote ahead of the 1990 midterm elections. However, the campaign didn’t really kick off for him until two years later. It was intended to persuade young voters to stop obsessing over Mariah Carey or Boyz II Men and actually be interested in voting for Bill Clinton.

Ah, those last three words weren’t clear, but among the 68-year-old WWII veteran, the nutty billionaire Texan with the charts, and the cool guy presidential candidate. It wasn’t hard to see what MTV liked. Wearing dark sunglasses as he played the saxophone at the Arsenio Hall Show.

The benefits of being a charismatic or funny personality in politics doesn’t mean that the purpose of politics or government is entertainment. Whether it’s professional sports, superhero movies, prestige TV, sword and sorcery cable shows, or the Kardashian family, whatever entertains or fascinates you, apart from Congress and the State Capitol, it’s widely available. increase.

The mindsets, values ​​and incentive structures of the entertainment industry have colonized the world of politics and government over the past three decades.

Oddly enough, growing up in the late 80’s and early 90’s, I found politics boring. Taking an interest in what elected leaders were discussing and doing was seen as the opposite of cool. Only nerds cared about it (admittedly, I qualified as a nerd for many other reasons).

On paper, I shouldn’t blame the intersection of politics and entertainment. The sleazy “Weekend Update” joke on ‘Saturday Night Live’. A monologue by Johnny Carson and Jay Leno. “Doonesbury”, “Bloom County”, editorial cartoons.

Political humor has always lived in this hellish realm between actual politics and mainstream entertainment, with a bit of an inadvertent stimulus to political education. To understand the joke, you had to understand what the joke was.

As a vivid example of how the road to hell is paved with good intentions, in 1990, in a public service announcement called “Rock the Vote,” Madonna said, “If you don’t vote, you’ll get spanked.” ‘ was picked up. Never mind that some of your target audience may have paid good money to be spanked by Madonna. And when pop culture’s preeminent sex symbol needs to make a cheeky reference to S&M, you’re not taking your civic duty seriously.

A few years later, John F. Kennedy Jr. founded George Magazine, a “lifestyle magazine centered around politics,” giving politicians (Gerald Ford, Madeleine Albright, Pat Schroeder) the Hollywood treatment. . We do the same with real celebrities (Kate Moss, George Clooney, Madonna, and her). Almost every page, profile and article screamed at the reader. Hey American! I know you think politics is boring, but look how cool, fashionable and attractive these people are!

With celebrities dressed as Betsy Ross (Barbra Streisand) and Abraham Lincoln (Harrison Ford) on the cover, and relatively little discussion of government policy internally, George is less concerned with politics. Offered Americans a version of politics. Lots of sweet frosting and very little cake.

The magazine struggled financially from the start, never gaining a foothold with advertisers, and closed in 2001, nearly two years after Kennedy’s death in a plane crash. Many thought that the failure of this publication meant that this hybrid mutant from People magazine and The New Republic had no natural market. was doing.

The most recent former president was a reality TV host. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN. Glossy magazines have also graced the covers of Beto O’Rourke (Vanity Fair), Nancy Pelosi (Rolling Stone, AOC, etc.), Kamala D. Harris (Vogue). Cumulative late-night talk show guest The list looks like the line-up of speakers at the Democratic National Convention.

Whether or not you find (usually Democratic) politicians attractive, most of the entertainment media fervently believe you will find them attractive.

The integration of the worlds of entertainment and politics should be close to perfect. Did it make politics better? Did it make entertainment better?

Yes, more Americans are interested in politics than a generation ago. Turnout in the 1988 presidential election was his 52.8% of eligible voters. That figure he rose to 58.2% in 1992 and dropped to 51.7% in 1996. By comparison, it hasn’t fallen below 58% since 2000 and is nearing 67% in 2020.

Today’s political scene is full of over-the-top, provocative, and larger-than-life things. Performerfrom Donald Trump and Marjorie Taylor Green to her supporting cast of AOC and “The Squad.”

These numbers certainly get people to pay attention to politics, because it becomes more and more like a non-stop circus with conflict and drama in a never-ending reality show. We rented the Hype House and a swag truck for the governor’s campaign. Kari Lake has declared former President Trump to be the nicest man in her life, even better than her husband. Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, said he angered Trump by asking him to be his running mate in the 2024 presidential election.

Bowling looks so tempting now, doesn’t it?

It’s hard to argue that the prestige of American politics has done anything to make government better.

get more americans be interested It’s not the same as getting more Americans in politics knowledgeable About democracy and how government works. It brought a worldview associated with sports talk radio to politics. You have a team and you want that team to win, but the other team is always the worst and the referee is always unfair to your side. You are absolutely prohibited from admitting that you have

You don’t need to look for Americans who want speech restrictions that violate the First Amendment, gun bans that violate the Second Amendment, or “crime-hard” policies that violate the Fourth Amendment. People complain that the government isn’t doing what it wants without bothering to look at the documents that explain what it can and can’t do.

It’s as if the Americans were pulling a shiny new federal government out of a fancy-wrapped box and trying to make it work without even bothering to read the instruction manual.

Many seem surprised at how long it takes to build consensus and pass laws. Almost everything else in our lives can be adjusted to our liking. You have to compromise and get a lot of things you don’t want.

This harsh reality is at odds with our on-demand consumer culture. Music playlists, online reading lists, and video streaming options are algorithmically shaped and fully customizable to your tastes. Laws passed for an entire country or state cannot.

It blended the worlds of Hollywood entertainment and celebrity with the aim of getting more Americans interested in politics, and it worked. Maybe it’s time to admit it was a mistake and reverse the trend.

For decades there has been a widely and unexamined belief that the politically apathetic and apathetic Americans are some sort of problem or crisis to solve. But what if indifferent Americans aren’t such a big problem? What if you could live a fulfilling life in ? If so many people were paying attention to what was going on… would it actually work?

It’s a big world, and it’s okay to be less political and more interested in gardening, sports, pop culture, cooking, novels, pets, the outdoors, and more. Week after week, month after month, keeping people interested in politics requires convincing them that the stakes are always high, inevitable, and irreversible. This is the most important election of our lifetime! If you get this wrong, you can’t go back!

The political circus means you’ll never run out of doom scrolling material on your phone. There are always new outrageous comments, such as state legislators. Every day, find some evidence to convince yourself that inmates are now running asylums and that you, common-sense citizens, are an endangered minority. I can.

No wonder so many Americans are angry and depressed. Perhaps part of the problem is that in dangerous times with serious illnesses that need to be dealt with, too many politicians go about their jobs with the self-centered, self-centered attitude of TikTok influencers. That’s what I feel.

An unspoken promise of Joe Biden’s presidential campaign was to work to make politics boring again, as he’s done for half a century. But it was the right idea.

This means not voting, not paying attention in times of crisis such as the Great Recession or pandemics, or yawning or shrugging at bad behavior by elected leaders or candidates for public office. I’m not asking for This is just a plea to politicians and voters to stop viewing the federal government and the 50 state governments as the stage for a huge, inevitable, never-ending reality show.

You can always come back when the government does something that seriously affects your life. There is no guilt in leaving decisions on particular topics to be pushed by those who care about them. Together, with enough debate and enough effort on the actual policies, regulations and budgets, we can make American politics boring again.

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