VITALOGY.... Vote for Change marks a sharp break with all previous multi-artist social efforts. So far, all such attempts have operated on the basis of morality. Vote for Change is explicitly political. It isn't a tour against the Iraq war--it champions John Kerry, who is in favor of continuing the war. It isn't a tour in favor of better living conditions such as national health care, a decent education, and a living wage--the Democratic Party platform pays no more than lip service to such important, concrete goals. The tour isn't even simply anti-Bush: The funds generated by the tour go to Americans Coming Together, a way of evading campaign finance restrictions to send soft money to the Democrats. No third parties need apply.
In this respect, Vote for Change is a lose-lose proposition for the artists involved. If anybody-but-Bush is elected, the social goals expressed in the music of Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, the Dixie Chicks, and the other artists here will continue being betrayed on January 20, 2005. The lives of the poor, of students, of battered women, of artists themselves will not be improved. If Kerry and Edwards had plans to improve such lives, they'd be shouting them, rather than skulking around the country quietly saying they aren't George W. Bush.
If Bush is re-elected, all signs point to the creation of an effective blacklist the likes of which has not been seen since the Cold War. This time, the targets will not be labeled communist but, far more bluntly, dissenters. Vote for Change artists likely will be among the first targets. If Bush's big media supporters attempted to derail the Chicks career simply for an offhand onstage remark about the President, what does this tour represent except collective treason?
We still welcome Vote for Change, and not only because many of the artists in it are old personal and professional friends like Jackson Browne, John Mellencamp, and Bruce Springsteen. The move from taking a moral stance to taking a political one marks an important shift, and a far greater risk than a policy-oriented campaign like Sun City or No Nukes. Although we think that the goal of electing Kerry is unworthy of these artists, there's no doubt in our mind that Vote for Change is the clearest collective expression they could find against the rise of an unapologetic American police state, operating both at home and abroad against the interests of the weakest humans it can find.
These artists' movement from moral to political is irrevocable--you can't go back, even if you want to. As the new Administration begins to act against the beliefs of these artists, they will have choices to make about who to side with then--the lesser of two evils or with people who aren't evil at all but are acting politically in mostly non-electoral areas. The Democrats will, one way or another, attempt to stampede them into believing that deserting the party means empowering something worse--but it's increasingly clear that that's nothing but a downbound train.
Those of us
who have shaken off the shackles of the Democrats--whether or not we will vote
against Bush--have more positive prospects to offer. For instance, the Poor
People's Economic Human Rights Campaign, with its worldwide reach, and of the
many efforts to achieve a civilized health system that covers everyone, not just
a few more of those who "can afford it" as Kerry proposes. At that point, the
Vote for Change artists will be handed a ballot of their own, and one way or
another, they will choose.
At best, grassroots campaigns will have important new supporters. At worst, we'll know who our allies aren't. That's a win-win proposition for RRC and those who believe that music can indeed help change the world into something better, not just less evil.
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