October 26th, 2020
MTV and Rocking the Vote
Believe it or not, there was a time when MTV actually played music videos. Like many other of the older Millennials, I grew up with a heavy influence of MTV -- and that influence was not limited to just music.
Even while I was far too young to vote, I can recall then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton appearing on MTV in front of a young audience answering questions quite candidly. At that time, it was rather unprecedented for someone campaigning for the highest office in the land to actively seek out the youth vote in such a manner. Even more unprecedented may have been the fact that the youth vote was being taken seriously at such a high level.
During that time, MTV partnered with “Rock the Vote,” a grassroots organization aimed at getting young people registered to vote and involved in politics. It worked. Following Clinton’s appearance on MTV and his famous saxophone playing on the Arsenio Hall Show, the coveted 18-24 demographic increased by six percent in the 1992 presidential election. Upon taking office, Clinton signed into law the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, legislation supported by Rock the Vote and aimed at expanding voter registration.
The influential and memorable attributes of watching a presidential candidate on the same channel where I could follow the Beastie Boys undoubtedly had an impact on me and many others during that time. Fast forward to the 2000 presidential election. Rock the Vote was still going strong. As a high school student, I worked at Kroger bagging groceries. My interest in politics only continued to grow; so much so, I mailed in a request to Rock the Vote for voter registration forms to help increase registration in West Virginia. The result was a voter registration table being set up during my shifts at Kroger.
As politics continues to consume our daily lives leading up to another presidential election, let’s not discount the youth vote in the process -- nor discount what moment may have sparked us in our youth to get interested, involved and want to make a difference.
While we may never see videos again on MTV, rest assured political activism can still be channeled to our youth -- which may influence them for years to come.