Amidst all the political bickering that’s surrounded the 2008 presidential election, there’s one thing that campaign officials, pundits, and political leaders alike can agree on “" that the “youth vote” will undoubtedly play a crucial, perhaps unprecedented, role in determining which candidate emerges victorious.
For the past five national elections, Rock the Vote, a non-profit organization founded in Los Angeles in 1990, has partnered with musicians and actors to inspire young people to take an active role in politics.
Among the artists supporting the 2008 Rock the Vote campaign (the list includes Madonna, Good Charlotte and Tim McGraw) is Florida punk outfit Against Me! Known for their politically-charged material (see: “From Her Lips to God’s Ears” an anthemic skewering of Condoleezza Rice), the band partnered with Rock the Vote in April to film a video for their single “Stop!” from their latest record, “New Wave.”
Singer Tom Gabel recently took some time out from touring to offer his thoughts on the impending election and Against Me!’s participation in the Rock the Vote campaign.
BLAST: What prompted you to make your Rock the Vote video?
TOM GABEL: We were approached by Rock The Vote about working with them as they were interested in using the song for their campaign. At first I was hesitant because the song isn’t really a political song, but after talking with (them) about it, I saw that the chorus did really work well for their cause. It’s important to me to be involved in this election. If shooting a PSA is a potential way we can motivate young people to vote, then I’m up for trying.
B: Which candidate are you supporting in the election and why?
TG: Barack Obama for sure. I’m certainly not a Republican, but I’m also not a Democrat. I think that Obama would be a breath of fresh air for the country and would change the rest of the world’s views towards us in a positive way. I think Obama is a very intelligent individual; I think he “gets it.” Whether or not that means he’ll be able to change anything, I don’t know. I believe he’ll try though.
I do believe that McCain can change things as well, but in a completely negative direction. Read McCain’s book, listen to him talk about how excited he was as a young man to start flying combat missions in Vietnam, “Ëœcause that’s what he was “trained” to do. He comes from a family with a long history of military service; war is bred into him. You’re fooling yourself if you think he wouldn’t be just as excited to sit in the Oval Office with the power of the big red button under his finger. He wants to command.
B: Why is it important for people of any age to vote, and to keep up with politics in general?
TG: Well, I think it’s important to be an educated person. I think it’s important to realize the effect your actions have on your immediate surroundings and on the world in general. It’s important to know how completely connected we all are. Politics are an extension of that. The people (we) elect into office have a very direct effect on our lives. Don’t you think it’s important to be aware of how other people affect your life? Don’t you think it’s important to have some kind of say in the decisions being made? It’s your world too.
B: What is the most important issue for you in this year’s election and why?
TG: I don’t think I can choose just one. The environment, the war in Iraq, America’s foreign policy in general, education, health care, women’s reproductive rights, marriage rights, etc. All the issues are equally important.
B: Why do you think so many Americans are disillusioned with politics?
TG: Because most politicians are fucking liars. The system is corrupt. It’s hard to actually effect change because of these factors. Most Americans are too busy worrying about how to pay their rent.
B: Does politics have a role in music? If so, what is that role?
TG: Everything is political. You don’t have to sing about politics to be politically involved. You could be a band that gets up on stage every night and sings exclusively love songs and still be the most political band in the world. At the same time you could be a band that gets up on stage every night and shouts their heads off about “Revolution” this or that, and have it mean nothing politically. Words and actions are two different things. How does a band treat their fans? What kind of shirts do they print their shirts on? Do the companies have fair labor policies? Are they environmentally aware? How do they treat their employees? What about on a personal level? Where do they shop? What companies do they support? There’s a million different angles.
I don’t think artists have a responsibility to sing about political topics. But I do think that people in bands have just as much responsibility as anyone else to be aware of the effect their actions have on the world around them.