Recently, a new ad campaign was launched by Venezualan President Hugo Chavez nicknamed “Ghetto Chavez.” In an attempt to appeal to the youth, various artists have depicted Chavez as a younger, more-in-touch-with-the-youth man. He’s seen rapping, riding a motorcycle, boxing, and even dunking a basketball. Much of this attempt to reinvent the 58-year-old president is because as he seeks another six-year term, he finds himself set against a younger, dynamic rival–Governor Henrique Capriles of Miranda state.
So, I got to wondering. What would our candidates look like if they were to adopt “Ghetto Chavez”? Both candidates have admitted that they are looking to the youth vote, with both President Obama and Mitt Romney making repeated visits to state colleges and universities. And, in light of his “forty-seven percent” statement, Romney may very well need the youth to win this election. So, who would they appeal to specifically? What might they rap? Would they be even remotely credible?
Well, here’s my take:
Musical influence: Jay-Z, Dead Prez, NAS
Audience: President Obama has a built-in audience as he’s already appeared at Jay-Z concerts in video promoting the election and “rocking the vote.” In 2008, Obama carried sixty-six percent of the youth vote. He is looking at dwindling numbers as the 18-year-olds that poured out to vote are now graduating seniors looking at a bleak economy, soaring debt, and unemployment that hovers around eight percent. They accepted the “Hope” and “Change” but are now wondering where it went, and are realizing that politicians say one thing, and do something else. Obama will still get a fair share of the youth vote–after all, it is the youth how seek to change their world while the middle-aged seem set in their ways.
Song to Rap: “Hell Yeah” by Dead Prez and Jay-Z
Every job I ever had I had to get on the first day
I find out how to pimp on the system
Two steps ahead of the manager
Gettin’ over on the regular tax free money out of the register
I’m not the one to kiss ass for the top position
I take mine off the top like a politician
Where I’m from doin’ dirt is a part of living
I got mouths to feed, dawg, I gots to get it
Credibility: President Obama wins this category if only because, like Bill Clinton, Obama has cornered the niche on utilizing the tools that the youth use themselves: Obama has 27 million “likes” on Facebook, over 18 million Twitter followers, can be seen at major concerts opening up the festivities with a “rock the vote” message, and even in video games. Right now, Obama’s message to college kids is one of the cost of college. However, Gen-Y wants more. Obama is going to have to rock hard with the college kids and his soft rock message of student loans is going to get lost in the white noise of the election.
Musical influence: Eminem, Vanilla-Ice, Snow
Audience: Other than the modern, college Republican kid who grew up with Rap music, Romney’s audience isn’t quite up on the “ghetto” mystique. It is rather unusual to go to a Tea Party fundraiser and find Eminem playing in the background. However, Romney does have that new youth group to tap; in 2008, 62 percent of college kids identified themselves as Democrat with 30 percent Republican. In 2010, that number had changed: 54 percent Democrat and 40 percent Republican. Rap music has become more mainstream as R&B supplants “classic rock” on the airwaves. Cee-Lo Green judges on Fox’s “The Voice.” Beyonce and Alicia Keys are household names among America’s youth, and Beyonce is married to Jay-Z, one of Obama’s favorite musicians on his iPod.
Song to Rap: “White America” by Eminem
See the problem is I speak to suburban kids
Who otherwise woulda never knew these words exist
These moms probly woulda never gave two squirts of piss
Till I created so much mothafuckin’ turbulence
Straight out the tube right into ya livin’ rooms I came
And kids flipped when they knew I was produced by Dre
Thats all it took and they were instantly hooked right in
Credibility: Romney’s… well, let’s just say that with the Barry Manilow crowd, Mitt’s got the ballroom abuzz. The Republican handlers helped Romney’s “street-cred” with the selection of the hip, 42-year-old Paul Ryan, an avid Zeppelin listener and p90x trainer. He’s someone the youth can connect to. What Ryan brings to the Republican party is a person who has proposed solutions to problems while in Congress–rather than complain or blame–and though many college students may feel his policies are not in line with theirs, he is still someone who has presented a plan and stuck to it. For the seniors who voted for President Obama and his “change” four years ago, they now look to someone who has proposed change and fought for it.