No Help for Obama From Hip-Hop This Time

The appeal to the youth vote has fallen flat because of disillusionment and delay.

Promote the Vote Block Party in Philadelphia, November 2008 (Jeff Fusco/Getty Images)
Promote the Vote Block Party in Philadelphia, November 2008 (Jeff Fusco/Getty Images)

As we head into the homestretch before the midterm elections, Democrats are on the brink of losing their majority in Congress, which will result in Republicans regaining control of the House and the Senate. Enough reason for me to send in my absentee ballot, but not all young people will follow suit this election.

Why? Young people were the last line of defense this time around. But they were not included in the campaign outreach until the very last minute — a mistake that will leave Democrats at a huge disadvantage on Nov. 2, because if 2008 is any indication, young people are an important part of the Democratic coalition, and quite forceful when included.  

It has been only two years, but the hip-hop community has yet to see the fundamental changes that would deal with things such as unemployment, housing, the public school systems and the prison industrial complex. The promises of 2008 have yet to be felt in a tangible way; we’re still jobless and unable to pay our bills, so many young people feel that their presence at the polls this election won’t even matter.

While the stakes are as high, if not higher, in 2010, young people can’t seem to look beyond their disillusionment to make it to the polls, which will be to their detriment if the GOP gains control of Congress.

A recent national poll of America’s 18- to 29-year-olds by Harvard’s Institute of Politics found that 60 percent of those surveyed were concerned about meeting their current bills and obligations, while 46 percent of those in the work force were concerned about losing their jobs. It seems that the group of individuals who were among the most hopeful in 2008 are losing hope. There is no motivation, and no excitement about getting involved this time around.

Last-minute attempts were made to recapture the spirit of the last presidential election among the young hip-hop generation. Obama and the Democratic National Committee invited Atlanta rapper B.o.B. to perform at the inaugural Gen44 Summit on Sept. 30 in Washington, D.C.

A few weeks later, Obama took to MTV, BET and CMT to hold a live town-hall meeting with young America in an effort to mobilize the youth vote for November. Hashtags, retweets, Facebook updates and text messages were all saturated with #president, #MTV, #BET and #BarackObama during the town hall — but it was transient.

No one should be surprised when, on Nov. 2, young America chooses to stay home and watch MTV and BET while tweeting, Facebooking and texting about everything but the election.

No T-shirts will be made, and there will be no street anthems or crafty celebrity-endorsed hooks. Obama and the Democrats need hip-hop to step up again and vote, but unless there’s an app for that, better luck next time.

Jennifer Ogunsola is the media-relations manager for Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. She is currently working on her first nonfiction book. Follow her on Twitter.

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