Friday, August 26, 2005

Vote Hip Hop in 2008

The Nation has an article about the possible emergence of a Hip Hop voting bloc.

[A]ccording to the League, African-Americans and Latinos accounted for more than half of the new voters aged 18 to 29 in 2004. There were certainly many factors that contributed to the increase, such as the Florida debacle in 2000 and the simple demographic increase in young voters. However, the political influence of hip-hop moguls such as [P. Diddy] Combs and Russell Simmons, as well as other rap stars engaged in registration and get-out-the-vote efforts, was undeniable. Massive registration drives, marketing campaigns and even music videos by the likes of Eminem and Jadakiss all helped create a heightened awareness of the importance of voting in young communities of color.

While Simmons's Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN), Combs's Citizen Change and the nearly dozen other hip-hop-affiliated activist groups have always been officially nonpartisan, their supporters were overwhelmingly anti-Bush, which had a lot to do with their success in the last election. The consensus among the behind-the-scenes hip-hop activists is that, although John Kerry lost, youth voting-drive efforts showed the potential of organizing young people around electoral goals and pointed the way forward to a time when the mobilization of new young voters could equal the Christian right's grassroots efforts.
I’d like to see groups like the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network and Citizen Change move beyond nonpartisanship and begin taking positions on political issues. Jerry Falwell tells his followers to “vote Christian,” why shouldn’t Mr. Combs tell his to vote hip hop? I assume that most of the voters Mr. Combs mobilized with his “Vote or Die” campaign in 2004 voted for Democrats anyway, but why not organize a more aggressive campaign that urges young people to vote and endorses certain issues and candidates?

I wouldn’t want to see Mr. Combs trying to enlist brainwashed minions of young voters who simply do what Diddy says. But if a hip hop voting bloc does emerge around these coalitions, it would force candidates to pay more attention an otherwise easily overlooked group of voters.

--Matthew McCoy