Don’t Be Brokenhearted, Barack, But…


There’s this thing about young voters. Most of them are liberal, mostly because most of them have had limited exposure to national politics, and because most of them get that limited exposure in political science classes taught by people who study political theory for twenty years before they impart their hard-earned wisdom onto our youth, not people who need to use the actual American economy to sustain their existence. Many of “us” (and I use that term loosely) also have a naive yet deeply ingrained need to fit in. The same compulsive behavior that leads young people to embrace formal short pants, Asian Fusion cuisine, gladiator sandals and Chuck Klosterman inspires their voting patters.

Yesterday, 75,000 “people” “showed up” to “hear” Obama “speak” and, apparently, to attend a concert by the indie rock band, The Decemberists, who despite their strong, continued attachment to whining rather than singing, and their strange habit of singing a melody that doesn’t match with the melody the backup band is playing, is a pretty good, if not remarkable band, considering the dearth of good current music. The Decemberists, of course, appeal to no one who has ever listened to tonal music, which means, no one over…say…35, but they do appeal to a key demographic: people who vote for Obama and people who listen to The Decemberists? They’re the same people.

From CNN to the New York Times, the media hyped Barack Obama’s Portland, Oregon rally on Sunday, some comparing him to a rock star.

Unmentioned in national reporting was the fact that Obama was preceded by a rare, 45-minute free concert by actual rock stars The Decemberists. The Portland-based band has drawn rave reviews from Rolling Stone magazine, which gave their 2005 album Picaresque four and a half stars (out of five), and another four and a half stars for 2007′s The Crane Wife.

Granted, a free Decemberists concert would draw me out of my hole, too, especially since, based on my previous experience with the Decemberists, they aren’t worth paying for (no one’s read a Rolling Stone‘s album review since they panned Zepplin), but there’s a strong connection that it seems everyone’s missed. Kids in Oregon are out of school for the summer, there is a band playing for free that you typically have to pass an “outfit check” at a seedy warehouse in a re-gentrified area of a major city to see, its not that hot out, and the kids get the bonus of participating in the political process without having to do any actual work. Of course its going to pack to the perimeter. If they’d given out coupons for a free tee shirt at Urban Outfitters, they would have probably drawn a cool 200K. And then there’s this tiny secret about political rallies for college students that also seems to slip through the cracks: they are a great way to meet young, eligible ladies — especially if you’re liberal.

So, despite the NYT’s puddle of drool, Obama has not yet acheived rock star status without the help of real rockers, a lot of bored kids and a strong, youthful commitment to utter and complete social conformity. Of course, had he managed to turn a few loaves and fishes into a meal of vegan Pad Thai for 75,000, I might be closer to agreeing that he’s the Messiah. And fortunately for us (and possibly the future of music), most of the same kids will tune out by November, pulling in a measely 20% turnout for their age group nationwide…and if early observation remains accurate, half of that 20% will vote for either a third party candidate or Ron Paul, whether or not he happens to be on the ballot.

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