By Meredith Chase-Mitchell
Appeared on www.impact-dc.com in 2008
“Yes, we can”, a slogan we all know well, a slogan that people across the globe know, regardless of age, race and socio-economic class. Some may say it’s a pledge that rings in the ears of people everywhere, who for the first time in 2008, believed that America is the land where dreams come true. The innovative, groundbreaking and historic Presidential campaign of our President Barack Obama, tapped into all demographics and resulted in a victory for all to remember. How did one man, who many thought the odds were against, manage to appeal to so many? How did one man accomplish securing the most powerful voting age group in America? Simple, music.
The Pew Research Center documented that the largest voter turnout for the 2008 election, occurred within the 18 to 29 year old age group of registered Democrats. Not since the 1972 Presidential race between Nixon and McGovern, has that age group been so vocal and active in a national election. In the U.S, one can find 18- 29 year olds enrolled in college, starting new careers, beginning new families, influenced by popular culture and enjoying while struggling with all that America has to offer, in terms of experiences and expression. From the moment Barack Obama announced his candidacy for President of the United States, we saw the impact that celebrities had on the Presidential campaign, particularly musicians. From Will.I.Am’s infamous YouTube clip “Yes, we can” with appearances from John Legend to Alicia Keys, to Jay Z’s anthem, My President is Black, the election became just as mainstream and relatable as McDonald's and Oprah. Infusing pop culture to appeal to voters was powerful and one would find it challenging to disassociate the impact of music and popular culture from Obama’s win.
As the Presidential campaign came to a successful end and President Obama moved into the White House, the infusion of music and popular culture continued. Individuals raced to produce Obama tees, while his name is continually mentioned in rifts spanning rock and hip hop. Even the president's “swagger,” continues to be emulated across the globe. While innovative in its application, using music to inform politics is not new. Music has proven to be a powerful tool before, uniting youth in protest over the Vietnam War in the 60’s and inspiring pride during the 70’s for African Americans. Through music, the Obama campaign managed to recruit and inspire youth across the nation to vote and be politically active.
As in times before, music has again made political involvement cool and acceptable. Evidence of this can be found in the twitter messages and facebook fan pages still devoted to elected officials and the Obama Administration. It will be particularly important to observe the ways that music continues to inform and influence political conversations. There are countless individuals who got interested and involved in the campaign because they saw Diddy sporting an Obama tee shirt or remember Obama himself “brushing the dirt off his shoulder” at a rally during his campaign. We can only hope that these individuals continue to serve as advocates and continue to be engaged, long after the last song of the Obama Administration has been played.