In the past two weeks, I’ve had more political discussions that when I ran for Congress. For better or worse, those of us in the radio and record industries have been dragged kicking and screaming into the political arena. And judging from the majority of those involved in these discussions, most in our business are extremely limited in our knowledge of the real power that affects our everyday lives.
It’s time to go to school.
There is no required reading, except for these Editorials. The nature of our business is that most don’t (or don’t have time to) read. However, before you engage in a political dialogue and risk embarrassing yourself, you should prepare.
Tonight, rent three videos and watch them in this order: The Candidate, starring Robert Redford; Blaze, with Paul Newman; and Clear And Present Danger starring Harrison Ford.
You’ll glean an important overview from this group, but the real truth is summed up in one scene; When an official is asked what the administration wants, he answers, “This administration wants what every new administration wants…to get reelected.”
The most important fact you need to grasp is that politics is big business. The biggest. Forget Forbes 500. Politics is the real king. Always has been. Always will be. If you look at political posturing as merely posturing, you miss the big picture.
In the beginning, it’s about morals and beliefs. I believe very few get into politics to make money. Their reasons are varied, but most begin the trek with lofty intentions. Is there one who doesn’t start out wanting to right wrongs, correct injustices and make the ultimate difference in the lives of others? I think not. But somewhere along the way, it gets twisted.
Running for office changes a person. As a record person, you can almost relate. When a PD tells you he doesn’t like your record, it’s a blot, but it’s not personal. You’re promoting a product. As a candidate, you ask people to vote for you. When they say no, because they don’t like you, it’s personal. Very personal. And it hurts. Trust me. I speak from experience.
Magnify that by an opponent who is saying nasty things about you. You’re accused of being the worst in the world…a liar, a cheat, a totally worthless person.
Somewhere in the middle of the campaign, a candidate changes. It becomes less about loft ideals and more about winning the race. You can’t implement your grandiose plans unless you’re elected. It turns into ego and power. You’re better than your opponents. You want to beat the others. It’s eat or be eaten.
And if you’re elected, the twist becomes a full-scale, supersonic, Bell helicopter spin. As a PD, you think you have pressure from record promoters? Get real. A U.S. Senator gets wined, dined and pressured by the heads of the largest companies in the nation, by the richest men in the world, by presidents of foreign countries. Compare “please play this record because we really believe in this artist” with “if you don’t vote for this foreign aid package, a million people in my country will die of starvation.” Or, “If you play this record, we’ll send two of your winners to a concert,” with “Vote for this bill and my company will open a factory in your district and employ 10,000 people. On second thought, don’t try. There is no comparison.
Politics isn’t about business…it is the business. And the money spent on directing the business is obscene. The record industry spends a fortune on promotion. It’s not even a drop in the Congressional lobbying budget Money spent lobbying Congress makes the profits of the entire record industry look like a modest tip.
To run a successful political campaign, you have to have a message, an organization and cash. Not in that order. Your message means nothing unless the voters hear it and hear it enough to believe it. And hear it one more time to stimulate them to vote. How much money? As much as it takes. And sometimes that isn’t enough.
Do you wonder why politicians pay attention to special interest groups? They get out the vote. They help politicians get elected. They make contributions. Definitely not in that order.
Are you getting the picture?
With all due respect to our elected officials, nobody draws a crowd like a record star. Isn’t it time we got off our collective butts and let our voices and choices be heard? If the record and radio industries came together, we would have the most effective lobbying group in history.
Radio stations should have voter registration concerts. A person need only register to vote to attend. Every record sold should have a voter registration card attached. Every concert should have voter registration booths. Radio stations should promote and recording artists perform free at events where all money raised goes to a political action committee to lobby for our rights.
Can you imagine what would happen if we all united together to promote better government? A united effort on the part of the music world…those who write and perform it, and those who enjoy it, could make the fringe groups obsolete. In our democracy, majority rules, yet because of the political system, small minorities are capable of making an impact because they do something.
We’ve got a message, but that’s not enough. Our elected officials need to hear it. I suggest we start a political action committee to promote our beliefs. Let’s unite to support politicians who reflect our perspectives. Let’s vote. Let’s help them get elected. Let’s make contributions.
Since I’m the big-mouth who came up with this idea, I’ll get off my butt and make the first move. I’ll head the group. I’ll motivate the members. I’ll file the papers. I’ll even name it: the Totally United Political Action Committee.
Are you with me?