Growing up in Guatemala I had music all around me. I grew up with listening to music while washing the dishes, while taking a shower, while doing homework. I woke up to music and fell asleep with music. I believe there is something that only music can add to a moment, to a way of thinking, to a way of feeling and to society overall. Unfortunately I also come from a country where political races are largely characterized by the music accompanying each candidate and it is common to hear popular opinions like “I support this candidate because I like his/her campaign better, his/her song is too good to ignore and it’s always stuck in my mind, that’s why I’ll vote for him/her.”
I assumed that politics in the U.S. would be different and that songs would be a minimal part of it. However, thanks to a friend of mine, I came across a reggeaton song that made me feel like I was at home. Listening to the lyrics ‘cómo se dice, cómo se llama, OBAMA! OBAMA!’ with the reggaeton beat in the background surprised me and made me wonder how different are politics in the U.S. from those in Guatemala? So, after this song, I continued clicking on the list of related videos and found out that there is a variety of songs that endorse Obama’s candidacy, each adapted to different groups within the U.S.
I came to conclude that, indeed, these videos are full of manipulative images and melodies in order to force the undecided voters to lean one way, just like they are at home. However, I also noticed that these songs are available to the people who want to hear them rather than forcing it into people’s minds through massive propaganda on the radio, TV, rallies on the streets, huge speakers at the Mall, etc. Regarding music, then, I feel that the use of musical propaganda is better in the U.S. than at home. When I am at home, I feel upset when political parties interrupt me while I’m listening to the radio or watching the news just to play these absurd commercials. The reason for getting upset is that such use of political propaganda makes me feel embarrassed of politics in general. This shouldn’t be the case when I am in supposed to be political and elect a President for my country. I don’t believe that these political songs are a good way to inform the people about the candidates policies or standpoints. A voter that decides merely on the basis of a candidate’s song is not a properly informed voter.
On a related note, something special to the United States political campaigns seems to be that defeating another candidate relies heavily on bringing to light inconsistencies or weaknesses about them so that the public can see how bad they are. While thinking about this I realized that this way of electing a candidate doesn’t seem that ideal either. Yes, it is better than having songs be imprinted into your head after listening to them 15+ times a day, but it in the end voters end up thinking that they should elect the lesser of two bads, rather than the better one, if this is their only source of information.
Ultimately, neither songs nor negative campaigns are ideal, but who do we hold responsible for these embarrassing examples. Is it the voters’ fault? is it the fault of the politicians? I think both are partially responsible. Politicians use these because the voters respond to such types of propaganda. Voters, by failing to actively inform themselves, are asking to have these made for them.
As voters, it is our responsibility to be well informed beyond what we see on the news or commercials and what we hear on the streets. We should also be committed to actively inform ourselves. By this, I mean, not only being informed about the decisions for the country but also being informed about the ones involving local decisions. It is important to know what local initiatives are being put up for voters to decide, who are the candidates running for being local representatives, etc. Once we, as responsible voters, have done this, we will be able to demand politicians to focus on campaigns that are helpful for voters. Rather than spending money on creating a catchy song or a commercial focusing on how ‘evil’ the other candidates are, candidates ought to provide formal politics with serious and informative campaigns in order to foster educated decisions and let the voters decide under such conditions.
p.s. > Although I do not appreciate the negative campaigns in the US, I can tell you that it feels better to be here where I’m free from the silly political songs I had to listen to all day at home. Here are some of the songs i was looking at:
U.S. elections (Spanish)
U.S. elections (english)