Music to get out the vote – pass it along!

Even the huge sums being poured into vicious smear ads against Democratic candidates across the country can’t compete with the wave of inspiring get-out- the-vote songs and videos from labor songsters, hip hop artists and activists in the Latino community.

 The cultural expressions are coming forth in answer to the voter suppression efforts of the cynical high rollers who are attempting to take over the country and turn back the clock to pre-civil rights days.  Enjoy them and pass them along.

When singer/songwriter Bill Collins of the Rabble Rousers attended President Barack Obama’s campaign rally in Stamford, Connecticut to support Richard Blumenthal for U.S. Senate last month, he heard more than a speech.  Obama’s often-repeated story about the car being driven into a ditch and the struggle to get it out was the makings of a rally song for Collins, who always counts on audience participation to get his point across.

He went to work and quickly created “Put the Car in D,” a rousing Calypso-style song with crowd shout-backs.  The recording session was timed so volunteers at the Labor 2010 phone bank could take a break to gather round and shout out, “Put the car in D – Okay, Don’t put the car in R – No Way!”

Blumenthal was treated to the song when he spoke at a labor rally on his behalf in the very same hall a few days later.

“I don’t have millions to spend on a campaign,” Blumenthal said referring to the $46 million that tea party-backed Republican Linda McMahon has spent of her own money to flood television and radio with negative smear ads.  “But I have something better, I have you,” he concluded.

Collins and his supporters are working hard to get the song to go “viral” on the internet to inspire a large voter turnout and reject the corporate anti-people agenda.

“Let’s fight the Republicans with our music and by getting out the vote!” says Bill.

The video is available on youtube, and can be downloaded for free here.

The huge sums being poured into smear ads against Democratic candidates across the country are a reminder of the vicious attack ads against Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004 by the “swift boat veterans.”

The same consulting group shares a P.O. Box with the recently formed conservative political action committee, Latinos 4 Reform, which attempted to buy $80,000 of airspace on Univision for an ad urging Latinos not to vote in the coming elections, as a way to “pay back” the Democratic Party for failing to enact immigration reform during the first two years of the Obama administration.

The message was so scandalous that in reaction the grammy award-winning multicultural fusion band Ozomatli wrote and recorded a song as part of the “Vote for Respect” campaign of the National Council of La Raza.  The bilingual song, “Respeto,” was released this week.  The lyrics call on Latinos to come out and vote on November 2.

Recalling the record number of Latino voters that helped elect President Obama in 2008, NCLR president Janet Murguia emphasized, “In the midst of an economic crisis and harsh anti-Latino climate, Latinos cannot afford to stay home.”

Ozomatli’s Raul Pacheco explained,” The simple act of voting has proven to be an important tool in the shaping of my surroundings.  As a modern American Latino, it is a meaningful step to counter the specifically hateful and hurtful rhetoric that has been aimed at Latinos throughout this country.” Pacheco adds, “Voting demonstrates self-respect. It is the dream of many that all who are eligible to vote do so this November 2nd. Vote for your family, vote for Respect!” The song is available here.

Last month, Jay Z produced a PSA for Vote Again 2010, featured on Head Count.  His performances on the campaign trail with Barack Obama encouraged thousands of young people to vote for the first time in 2008.  Now he is asking the same youth to “Fight for what’s right / fight for what you believe in,” and come out to vote again.  “We changed the world,” he said.  “Stay forever young.”

Head Count’s goal is to “register voters and inspire participation in democracy through the power of music.” Over 80 bands are part of the effort.  Volunteers at concerts, festivals and community events around the country ask young people to sign a pledge to vote in 2010.

Labor and hip-hop have come together for a national campaign “Respect My Vote.”  The Hip-Hop Caucus, which reaches out to young people in the nation’s urban centers, is calling for all those who voted for the first time in 2008 and helped elect President Obama, to come out again on November 2, 2010.

Image: Cover art for “Put the car in D.”


Joelle Fishman
Joelle Fishman

Joelle Fishman chairs the Connecticut Communist Party USA. She is a Commissioner on the City of New Haven Peace Commission, serves on the executive board of the Alliance of Retired Americans in Connecticut and is an active member of many economic rights and social justice organizations. As chair of the CPUSA Political Action Commission, she has played an active role in the broad labor and people's alliance and continues to mobilize for health care, worker rights and peace.