Smackdown Your Vote!
9/22/03 Press Conference Coverage
The Atlanta Journal – Constitution Rappers, wrestlers push vote campaign
23 September 2003
Washington — If war, terrorism and a recession aren’t enough to persuade
the under- 30 crowd to vote, maybe hip-hop stars and wrestlers can do it.
Members of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network and World Wrestling Entertainment’s
Smackdown Your Vote joined political activists Monday in kicking off an effort
to register 2 million more voters between the ages of 18 and 30.
”Many people across the world pay attention to the words of [rappers] Jay-Z,
Eminem, 50 Cent, Rev. Run and others, much more than they do any politician,”
said Russell Simmons, chairman of the hip-hop network.
Simmons’ brother, Rev. Run of the group Run-DMC, broke into a rap about the
virtues of voting.
”Preach on a Sunday, rap on a Monday. Y’all do what Run say, to get better
one day,” he rapped, dressed in a black suit and priest’s collar.
”A lot of young people look up to us,” said Maven Huffman, a WWE star with
a shaved head and massive biceps. ”I can take that excitement and enthusiasm
and turn it to voting.”
He was joined by Vince McMahon, chairman of the wrestling organization and
Bradshaw, another WWE star whose stock-picking prowess and personal finance
book has landed him spots on several financial news shows.
Only 29 percent of eligible 18- to 24-year-olds voted in the 2000 presidential
election, compared with 54 percent of eligible voters, according to the Committee
for the Study of the American Electorate.
”We have to reverse the process where old people are the only ones in charge
of the futures of young people,” said Simmons, who owns the Phat Farm clothing
line, and a hip-hop production company.
Using celebrities to bring young voters to the ballot box hasn’t worked that
well in the past, according to Rashad Robinson, national field director of the
Center for Voting and Democracy, a nonprofit organization.
The Smackdown Your Vote campaign did manage to register 150,000 voters for
the last presidential election after it started in July 2000. Since the election,
the group has registered more than 400,000 voters.
NPR: Morning Edition Profile: Hip-hop and World Wrestling
Entertainment join forces to register voters
23 September 2003
BOB EDWARDS, host:
An unusual coalition is trying to encourage more young people to vote. World
Wrestling Entertainment, a professional wrestling operation, and Hip-Hop Action
Summit, a social advocacy network, are joining forces for the 2004 election.
Mr. VINCE McMAHON (WWE): Wow, the WWE and hip-hop together. There goes the
EDWARDS: That’s Vince McMahon, chairman of World Wrestling Entertainment. His
Smackdown Your Vote campaign and Hip-Hop Team Vote will share a non-partisan
mission: to register two million more young people than in the presidential
race of 2000. McMahon said yesterday nothing appeals to young people more than
hip-hop and wrestling.
Mr. McMAHON: When you think about it, we’re asking young people of America
to practice themselves what we as performers in both worlds enjoy so much, the
freedom of expression. And the greatest freedom of expression that there can
be in this country is to vote.
EDWARDS: For hip-hop entrepreneur Russell Simmons, the project sends a message
that voting is an `in’ thing, like buying a hot CD on the day it’s released.
Mr. RUSSELL SIMMONS (Entrepreneur): On Tuesday, they go to the record store.
The new record is out. A million people may come home with the new Jay-Z record
just on that one Tuesday.
EDWARDS: The rapper Reverend Run of Run DMC also compared the voter registration
campaign to grabbing record sales.
REVEREND RUN (Run DMC): It’s my job to make sure that we get some sales here.
And when I say sales, I believe that we’re going to go platinum, more than double
platinum. They say two million. I believe it’ll be more, and my job is to make
sure that it happens.
EDWARDS: Several groups, including the League of Women Voters and Rock the
Vote, have signed on to the Two Million More in 2004 campaign. Russell Simmons
says appearances by wrestlers and rap artists in public service announcements
will get even more young people interested in the democratic process.
Mr. SIMMONS: Many people across the world pay attention to the words of Jay-Z
and Eminem and 50 Cent, Reverend Run and others much more than they do George
Bush, much more than they do any politician, for that matter–Howard Dean or
EDWARDS: Previous efforts to encourage more 18- to 30-year-olds to vote have
not had much success. Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for
the People & the Press, says grassroots recruiting has more promise than
a media blitz.
Mr. ANDREW KOHUT (Pew Research Center): So if you really want to get young
people out to vote, you’d better have some of those rap artists or wrestlers
giving the young people calls on Election Day or even before Election Day and
getting them to register. It’s the personal push that young people need more
so than the media campaign.
EDWARDS: The Two Million More partnership will use media announcements and
events across the country, registering young people at concerts and colleges.
Some of them might even hear Reverend Run on their answering machine.
REVEREND RUN: Preach on a Sunday, rap on a Monday, y’all do what Run say, to
get better one day. Just because Rev Run got a collar don’t mean I can’t make
a dollar, so y’all holler.
Associated Press Charleston Gazette
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Wrestling, hip-hop leaders team up to register young voters
Sam Hananel The Associated Press
22 – 23 September 2003
WASHINGTON – The body-slamming promoters of professional wrestling and the
mavens of hip-hop music are teaming up to bring their fans to what may be an
unfamiliar place – the voting booth.
The unlikely partnership between World Wrestling Entertainment and the Hip-Hop
Summit Action Network – called "Smackdown Your Vote!" – wants to get
2 million more 18- to 30-year-olds to register and cast their votes in the 2004
presidential election than did in 2000.
"Wow. The WWE and hip hop together – there goes the neighborhood, huh?"
quipped WWE chairman Vince McMahon at a news conference Monday. He was joined
by Rev. Run, aka Joseph Simmons, of the hip-hop group Run-DMC and wrestling
stars Bradshaw and Maven, among others.
Known more for promoting bone-jarring wrestling spectacles than for his political
savvy, McMahon said the two groups are forming a "tag team championship
combination to go out and find these new people, sign them up and get them to
The groups will register voters at hip-hop concerts and wrestling events around
the country, hold rallies at colleges and high schools and create public service
announcements to promote voter registration and voting.
"We’re going to work hard and inform young people why voting is important,"
said Benjamin Chavis, CEO and president of the action network, an education
advocacy group founded by music mogul Russell Simmons. "If young people
understand that voting can change their living conditions, they will vote."
Overall voting rates have dropped from 63 percent in 1960 to 50 percent in
2000, according to Curtis Gans, who studies voter turnout as director of the
Committee for Study of the American Electorate. Turnout of young adults between
18 and 24 has dropped to about three in 10, Gans said.
The nonpartisan partnership also plans to unveil a report on issues important
to young voters shortly before the New Hampshire presidential primary, tentatively
set for Jan. 27.
The action network has already organized nearly a dozen concerts to promote
voter registration in major cities this year. At its most recent hip-hop summit
in Philadelphia, organizers registered more than 11,000 new voters.
Newsday Wrestlers, Rappers Urge Voting
By Robert Gutsche Jr. WASHINGTON BUREAU
23 September 2003
Washington – If they won’t listen to politicians, professors or parents, maybe
America’s youth will listen to wrestlers
That’s what the folks behind "Smackdown Your Vote!" are hoping as
they kick off a campaign to register more than 2 million people between the
ages of 18 and 30 for the 2004 presidential election.
Yesterday, Queens’ own Joseph Simmons, better known as Rev. Run of the pioneering
rap group Run DMC, was joined at a news conference by his big brother, and Def
Jam Recordings founder, Russell Simmons and World Wrestling Entertainment’s
chairman Vince McMahon to announce the registration campaign. Beginning this
week wrestling stars and hip-hop artists will visit colleges and high schools
across the country to help register voters.
"The potential that we have [among the youth] hasn’t always been utilized,"
said Russell Simmons, chairman of the Hip-Hop Summit Action network, a national
coalition of hip-hop artists and youth leaders that tries to get youth involved
with social issues and politics. "Today, we promise that we’ll use it."
Eligible voters under 25 are significantly less likely than others to participate
in elections and often feel distanced from politics, according to the Youth
Vote Coalition, a Washington, D.C.-based national nonpartisan coalition of organizations.
The group, which is dedicated to increasing political and civic participation
among young people, supports the Smackdown program.
Smackdown, first organized by WWE, registered more than 400,000 voters for
the 2000 presidential election.
"The greatest freedom of expression that there can be in this country
is to vote," McMahon said.
The Washington Post
NAMES & FACES
23 September 2003
Twisting Arms & Bending Ears
What do hip-hop and professional wrestling have in common? Until yesterday,
not much. Now they have something called "Smackdown Your Vote!," which
brings Russell Simmons’s Hip-Hop Summit Action Network and World Wrestling Entertainment
(WWE) together in an effort to get 2 million 18-to-30-year-olds to register
and vote in the upcoming election. They call — or rap — it "Two million
more by 2004."
Yesterday Simmons, his brother Joseph — aka Rev. Run of Run-DMC, who unfortunately
wasn’t wearing his trademark Adidas shoes, but did rap briefly — WWE Chairman
Vince McMahon, professional wrestlers Maven and Bradshaw, and others came to
Washington in support of their cause.
"Wow. The WWE and hip-hop together — there goes the neighborhood,"
McMahon said yesterday at the National Press Club. The two groups, he said,
will be "a tag-team championship combination to go out and find these new
people, sign them up and get them to vote."
Meanwhile, Rev. Run put things in a musical perspective, explaining that reaching
their registration goal would be the equivalent of having an album go double
"Our goal is to encourage as many young people in today’s society to take
an active part in the voting process," the 26-year-old Maven told us from
MCI Center — where he was prepping for a match. "Simmons sees the avenues
of availability so closely linked with today’s young people. It’s just a win-win
"Every week we’re in schools talking about voting. . . . No, we’re not
scaring anyone into voting," Maven said with a laugh. "We just encourage
WRESTLERS, RAPPERS TRY TO WAKE UP YOUNG VOTERS
Clarence Page, Tribune Media Services
25 September 2003
Orlando Sentinel, Newsday
WASHINGTON — When you think about it, the idea of rappers and wrestlers getting
together to lure young people to the polls is not such an outlandish concept.
After all, the two entertainment industries have so much in common:
Each panders with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the overheated fantasies
of teenage males.
Each operates in a pretend world — professional wrestling pretends that it’s
a sport, and a lot of rap is only pretending to be music.
And, most important for our current discussion, each has superstars seen and
heard by loyal young fans who don’t want to see or hear much of anything else
their elders have to say.
It was upon this common ground that hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons, co-founder
of Def Jam Records and the Hip Hop Action Summit Network, came together at the
National Press Club earlier this week with professional wrestling kingpin Vince
McMahon, chairman of World Wrestling Entertainment.
They were jointly announcing "Smackdown Your Vote!", a national campaign
to persuade 2 million more 18-to-30-year-olds to register and vote in the 2004
presidential election than registered and voted in 2000. That year, the wrestlers
registered more than 15,000 people before the November elections.
"Wow. The WWE and hip hop together," the big-haired McMahon quipped.
"There goes the neighborhood, huh?"
Simmons, accompanied by his younger brother, Rev. Run, aka Joseph Simmons of
the golden-oldy hip-hoppers Run-DMC, said he looked forward to marketing the
obligation to vote as effectively as he has marketed rappers like DMX, Sean
"P. Diddy" Combs and Jay-Z, whom he has said are "more powerful
than George Bush, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice and [Donald] Rumsfeld put
together for young people across the world."
Whatever you think of his musical tastes, Simmons, 45, is a business genius
of our times. He founded Def Jam in 1984 and expanded later into TV shows (Def
Comedy Jam on BET, Def Poetry on HBO), movies (The Nutty Professor starring
Eddie Murphy), Broadway (Def Poetry on Broadway, which won a Tony) and clothing
And, like other impresarios, Simmons couldn’t resist the lure of the high-stakes
entertainment industry known as politics. He co-founded the Hip-Hop Summit Action
Network in 2001 with Benjamin Chavis, who many will remember for being fired
in 1994 as executive director of the NAACP.
"Now I’m back to doing what I’ve always really wanted to do," he
told me at the Washington news conference. The Hip Hop network is a nonprofit
coalition of rappers, music executives and political activists of old and new
schools of thought.
The big question is, will the voter registration push work? There have been
earlier efforts like MTV’s "Rock the Vote" and radio disk jockey Tom
Joyner’s national bus tour for voter registration prior to the 2000 election.
The under-25 crowd still has a voter turnout rate of slightly more than 30 percent,
compared to a two-thirds turnout for the over-45 crowd.
Even in 1992, when the turnout of voters under age 25 was the highest of any
year since 18-year-olds first got the vote in 1972, the turnout of all other
voters also surged upward, leaving the usual margin between young and old.
Still, Simmons was optimistic, pointing out the success of Detroit’s 32-years-young
Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, aka the "Hip Hop Mayor," who won in 2000 with
a 40 percent increase in voters age 18 to 40 over the previous race.
Simmons has a point. All you have to do to get young people politicized is
to give them someone and something to believe in.
And experience shows the most important steps such a mobilization movement
can take would be to:
1. Get the youngsters registered.
2. Work a vigorous door-to-door get-out-the-vote campaign on Election Day.
3. Protect the vote, as civil-rights activists would say in the 1960s, to avoid
the sort of debacle we saw in Florida in 2000.
For example, a close examination of the Florida ballots by the Chicago Tribune
(as part of a consortium of eight newspapers investigating the 2000 election
aftermath) found that more Floridians attempted to choose Al Gore over George
W. Bush, but more Gore supporters improperly marked their ballots, leaving Bush
with more valid votes.
Whether that Gore undercount was helped along by shenanigans, as some claim,
or not, the best way for grassroots activists to avoid such problems is to train
voters and poll workers in advance on how to vote and how to watch out for dirty
Most important for reaching young voters is that, like other voters, somebody
has to show them there’s something in it for them. Here the candidates can help.
Instead of giving up on young voters, they should reach out to them. They don’t
even have to be wrestlers or rock stars. They only have to take the time to
show they care.
Gannett News Service
The Seattle Times
26 September 2003
Unlikely tag team to get out the vote
WASHINGTON Hip-hop artists and professional wrestlers said this week they will
use their pop-culture cool to help register 2 million young people to vote in
the 2004 elections.
The voter-outreach campaign is the latest bid to reverse historically low voter
turnout among young people. Fewer than a third of 18- to 24-year-olds voted
in 2000, the last presidential election year.
"I believe we’re going to go more than double platinum," predicted
Joseph Simmons, better known as the Rev. Run of the seminal rap group Run-DMC.
The Hip-Hop Summit Action Network and World Wrestling Entertainment’s "Smackdown
Your Vote!" will target 18- to 30-year- olds through a variety of events
leading up to the 2004 elections. Hip-hop summits are being planned in more
than a dozen cities, rallies are expected at high schools and colleges, and
voter- registration tables will appear outside both wrestling and music venues.
With the help of the Youth Vote Coalition and Harvard University’s Institute
of Politics, the two groups will develop an issues paper for young people and
go on a cross-country tour to register new voters. A database of young people
contacted during the campaign will be used in get-out-the-vote drives on Elec
Smackdown Your Vote, which wrestlers started in July 2000, registered more
than 150,000 people before the last presidential election.
John Layfield, who wrestles under the name Bradshaw, said the campaign is not
political but will stress voting as an important part of freedom. "America
doesn’t ask much," he said, "but it does ask that you be involved."
Rock stars, actors and sports icons have made similar pitches for much of the
past decade, most famously in the "Rock the Vote" campaign, but young
people have remained among the least likely of any age group to vote.
Polls and studies have found that young people are more likely to be influenced
politically by their peers and parents, and that personal, conversational appeals
to vote in the week before an election can improve their turnout.
Russell Simmons, a hip-hop mogul best known for his work with Def Jam Recordings,
said many young people are more likely to listen to voting advice from rap stars
such as Jay-Z, 50 Cent and Eminem than from President Bush or former Vermont
Gov. Howard Dean, a leading Democratic presidential candidate.
Simmons said he wants to make Election Day an event with style, much like the
day a new compact disc from a popular hip-hop artist debuts.
"Young people are decision-makers and brand-builders," he said. "They
are the creative ones who save us from the mistakes that adults make."
Vince McMahon, chairman of the WWE, called the venture with the hip-hop world
a "tag-team championship combination." He said hip- hop artists and
wrestlers value freedom of expression, adding that he hopes young people will
take advantage of their freedom by voting.
Columbus Ledger-Enquirer (GA)
WWE wants your vote — and attention; Deck head goes here goes here
26 September 2003
TextPro wrestling, at least Vince McMahon-style, has perpetually managed to
create strange bedfellows and alliances with alternate social groups.
Now, World Wrestling Entertainment is teaming with rappers to create a campaign
called Smackdown Your Vote!
WWE and hip-hop music is not a first-time pairing. Dating back to the early
national days of McMahon’s company, its embracing of rock singer Cyndi Lauper
to build interest in its early Hulk Hogan feuds struck a chord.
This time, WWE’s marriage with Hip-Hop Summit Action Network is designed to
attract two million new 18-to 30-year-old voters to register and cast ballots
in the 2004 presidential election.
The campaign was announced Monday. McMahon, ever the pop culture icon, told
a news conference: "Wow. The WWE and hip hop together — there goes the
neighborhood, huh?" Rev. Run, aka Joseph Simmons, of the hip-hop group
Run-DMC was at McMahon’s side.
At a time when ratings have been slipping for wrestling for two years, McMahon
is obviously reaching out to politics in an effort to gain new attention.
The combination claims to be non-partisan, though the Hip-Hop Network is heavily
populated with performers and producers who have actively campaigned for Democratic
candidates in the past.
The groups intend to register voters at hip-hop concerts and wrestling cards
around the U.S., hold rallies at colleges
and high schools and create public service announcements to promote voter registration
"We’re going to work hard and inform young people why voting is important,"said
Benjamin Chavis, CEO and president of the action network, an education advocacy
group founded by music mogul Russell Simmons.
Sociologists and political scientists will be studying the effort. Overall
voting rates have dropped from 63 percent in 1960 to 50 percent in 2000, based
on figures provided by the Committee for Study of the American Electorate. Turnout
of young adults between 18 and 24 has dropped to about three in 10, according
to the same survey.
The WWE and Hip-Hop coalition also plans to unveil a report on issues important
to young voters shortly before the New Hampshire presidential primary in January.
Steve Beverly is director of broadcasting at Union University. E-mail [email protected]
Also see his column at ledger-enquirer.com wrestling.
VOTER SMACKDOWN WRESTLERS AND HIP-HOP TEAM UP FOR DEMOCRACY
26 September 2003
One of the disappointing things about American political culture is the indifference
it breeds. The lack of seriousness by people elected to office is maddening.
No wonder the majority of voting- age citizens, particularly those between 18
and 30, choose to sit out one election after another.
That’s why an unusual alliance between World Wrestling Entertainment and the
Hip-Hop Summit Action Network to register 2 million young voters by next year’s
presidential election should be applauded.
There’s a temptation to sneer at the WWE’s Hulk Hogan, the Undertaker or even
the rapper Eminem for pushing young people to vote. The presumption among elites
is that only establishment figures in politics and media can talk about voter
registration. But three out of 10 young people don’t even bother to vote because
they assume special interests have a hammerlock on the system.
So if the Rock exhorts young people to "smackdown your vote," he’s
demonstrating more concern for democracy than are the boys in the local political
machine. And if rappers are marginally successful in registering new voters
and getting them to the polls, it will definitely have an impact on elections.
But registering new voters is not enough. Educating them about the issues and
motivating them to cast their ballot is the rest of the battle. Until newly
registered voters step into the voting booth, expanding the ranks of those eligible
to choose on Election Day means nothing.
Ironically, when Madonna and rocker Lenny Kravitz lent their names to a similar
effort sponsored by MTV a decade ago, neither was registered to vote or had
participated in the democratic process in years. One can only hope that such
celebrity endorsements will now come with a modicum of follow-through.
The alliance between the WWE and hip-hop may have limited success, like the
Rock the Vote campaign of the early 1990s, but it’s better than leaving the
20-somethings disengaged. After all, no one has a bigger stake in democracy
than young people.
Scotland on Sunday
Sun 28 Sep 2003
Rap stars and wrestlers unite to make polling booths hip hop
JACQUI GODDARD IN MIAMI
IT MAY seem an unlikely political partnership, but some of the biggest names
in hip-hop have teamed up with the flamboyant world of wrestling in an attempt
to persuade American youth that it is worth voting in the 2004 White House election.
The ‘Two Million More in 2004’ drive aims to increase the turnout of teenagers
and 20-somethings by an extra two million compared to the 2000 ballot, pumping
out the message that their voice counts through a series of events backed by
leading rap stars including Eminem, P Diddy and Wyclef Jean.
"Many people across the world pay attention to the words of Jay-Z, Eminem,
50 Cent, Rev Run and others, much more than they do any politician," said
Russell Simmons, the so-called Godfather of Hip-Hop and multi-millionaire founder
of Def Jam Records.
"We have to get all those apathetic people to pay attention to the social
and political landscape of this country."
The new alliance between Simmons’s Hip-Hop Summit Action Network and World
Wrestling Entertainment – formerly known as the World Wrestling Federation –
will register voters at hip-hop concerts and wrestling events around the country,
hold rallies at colleges and high schools, and launch public service announcements
and literature to promote voter registration and voting.
The 18-30 age group is a notoriously disengaged voting bloc – only around 30%
took part in the 2000 presidential ballot. The winner was ultimately determined
in Florida, where George W Bush was ruled to have beaten Democratic opponent
Al Gore by a margin of just 537 votes.
"Young people may feel like voting is useless, and their vote doesn’t
make a difference," said WWE wrestling star Maven Huffman.
"But in the last presidential election, Florida showed them how close
an election can be. A lot of young people look up to us. I can take that excitement
and enthusiasm and turn it to voting."
Over the past 20 years, reformed drug addict Simmons, 45, has turned hip-hop
into a cultural phenomenon.
A powerful social and political activist, he has the ear of America’s street
culture generation and has been courted by virtually every candidate for the
Democratic Party’s 2004 presidential nomination.
The Manila Times
Thursday, October 02, 2003
Will wrestling fans ruin US democracy?
By Andrew Ferguson
MR. McMahon went to Washington last week-that would be Vince McMahon, he of
the collarless shirts and granitic jaw and improbable hair, known from here
to there as the world’s richest and loudest impresario of professional wrestling.
Unfortunately, he did not come to the nation’s capital to do what he does best.
No refs were body-slammed, no rivals were dangled by their ankles. Instead he
came to save American democracy.
"Vince McMahon is a great patriot," says one who should know, his
spokesman Gary Davis. "He loves this country very much, because it has
been so good to him. And now he wants to give something back."
And he is "giving back"-unavoidable phrase these days!-in a particular
way. At a news conference at the National Press Club, McMahon appeared with
another public-spirited impresario, the rap mogul Russell Simmons, to launch
a drive to register two million young people to vote in the 2004 election.
"Two Million More in 2004," the effort is called, employing the mnemonic
rhyming scheme that wrestling fans find helpful.
The specter of two million more children in turned-around baseball caps queuing
up for the voting booth, as they nod drowsily to the thumps drilling through
the earplugs of their portable MP3 players, raises the urgent question: Can
democracy survive Vince McMahon’s attempt to save it?
Of course, it is not merely McMahon who hopes to rescue democracy in this way.
Registering young people to vote has been a celebrity cause, off and on, at
least since that fateful day in 1971 when Richard Nixon certified a constitutional
amendment lowering the voting age to 18.
Most recently, in July, the Dixie Chicks announced they too had joined with
Rock the Vote-a "nonpartisan" creature of the recording industry that
seeks to "empower young people to change their world"-in a campaign
to register even more 18 to 24 year olds and hector them into going to the
polls in 2004.
"Only 36 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 to 24 voted in the
last presidential election," the Chicks noted in a press release.
Apparently they and their partners at Rock the Vote find this statistic alarming.
Respectable people aren’t supposed to say this, of course, but there are many
reasons to discourage Vince and the Chicks in their democratic enthusiasm. Republicans
long ago noticed, for example, that the "nonpartisan" Rock the Vote
is in fact sharply ideological-a mechanism for propagandizing befuddled young
people in statist economics and multicultural orthodoxy.
The stronger objections have nothing to do with partisanship, however. In one
of those delightful coincidences that grumpy columnists rely on, on the same
day McMahon was launching his "Two Million More" program, the National
Conference of State Legislators released a national survey of those very same
idealists Vince and the Chicks hope to empower.
Young Americans, the survey found, "don’t understand the ideals of citizenship;
are disengaged from the political process; lack the knowledge necessary for
effective self-government; and have limited appreciation of American democracy."
The survey might make you think twice about placing the fate of that same democracy
in the hands of people with such a limited appreciation for it.
Fewer than half of those younger than 26, for example, believe you should "follow
government news in order to be a good citizen." Eighty percent of them
know that Ruben Stoddard is the American Idol, while one in ten could identify
the Speaker of the House from a list of five names. Fewer than half knew the
party of their state’s governor. The results won’t surprise anyone who’s ever
scanned the audience at one of McMahon’s wrestling shows.
Wouldn’t it be much fairer to them, and better for self-government, to leave
such people to their MP3 players, in deference to a principle almost as old,
and just as solid, as universal suffrage? The principle goes like this: If somebody
doesn’t vote, he probably shouldn’t.
The Dixie Chicks, McMahon, and other celebrities will be horrified to discover
that their zeal for spreading the ballot to people who have no business voting
is not, amazingly, shared by everyone. It is not even universally shared by
young people themselves, at least outside the US.
Earlier this month, a city council in Lancashire UK was seized by a fever similar
to the one gripping Vince and the Dixie Chicks. It proposed lowering the local
voting age even further, from 18 to 16-an idea often endorsed by Rock the Vote
enthusiasts. Students from several local schools gathered to debate the proposal.
They voted overwhelmingly against it.
"They felt that the age should not be reduced until they can learn more
about the democratic process," said a spokesman for the students, several
of whom said they thought the voting age should even be raised.
Some of these kids aren’t as dumb as they look.