Shredding the Competition: What Are Musician Endorsements Doing for Presidential Candidates?

Getting Musicians on One's Team More About Reaching New Audiences Than Making Convincing Arguments

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Let's admit it: quite some time ago, SFS threw up its arms and completely gave up on keeping track of political endorsements by musicians. And, by "political endorsements," we mean "Barack Obama endorsements," because, let's face it, does anyone even think that Our Next President is even aware of all the rockers in his corner? With the musical divisions between Obama and Hillary, it's not even a Beatles vs. Stones debate. It's more like a Beatles vs. Bob Denver smackdown.

But the quantity of support isn't the important question here; it's the quality and the diversity. From Spin:
"The evidence suggests voters don't necessarily trust the credibility of celebrities to tell them how to think big, important thoughts," says Rob Stutzman, former adviser to Mitt Romney's campaign and former communications director for California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. "No matter how star-crazed we are, when it comes to the issues we vote about, people usually vote for candidates or on issues that affect their life. [Stars] are people who don't have lives like ours."
In a surprisingly nuanced and well-written feature piece in the current issue of Spin, David Peisner consults everyone from Death Cab for Cutie to David Crosby on the impact of their political endorsements. As one might guess, the prognosis is not good. But maybe we're placing unrealistic expectations upon musicians and their ability to enact social and political change, says Lara Bergthold, who was the liaison to the entertainment community for John Kerry's 2004 presidential run.
"You use talent to broaden your reach into communities you might not already have access to," says Bergthold. "Like if country-music artists are interested, obviously that's a community a Democratic campaign would love to hit. It's creating a buzz more than anything else. I don't think I've ever met a voter who said, 'I'm voting for a candidate because Madonna told me to.' But they may have learned more about the candidate than they would have otherwise. Ultimately, the candidate has to change their minds."
So support from indie rockers and hip-hoppers in Obama's camp is not nearly as valuable as Timbaland throwing his hat in with Hillary and Twisted Sister's Dee Snider throwing his in with McCain. As much as it pains us to say it, the Goo Goo Dolls could be one of Obama's most valuable endorsements.

[Via Spin]