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Hip-Hop Fridays: Voting and Parties vs. Principles and Issues Part 1

By now, most of us have heard of at least a few of the efforts to corral the Hip-Hop Nation into one of several "get out the vote" campaigns. These voting drives usually masquerade as some type of non-partisan effort to bring young people into American politics but after close inspection it isn't hard to find that most of these efforts are closely connected with Democratic Party efforts to increase voter turnout. And even if they aren't connected to the Dems they almost always have nothing to do with the real interests or issues that reflect the culture of the Hip-Hop community.

For years now, I have thought over what issues the Hip-Hop community would place in its platform or agenda, if such a thing were ever crafted. And I always find that it would be an eclectic mixture of issues currently being championed by the Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, Green and Reform Party platforms. I also think that there are a few issues that would be raised that no political party currently addresses. Before the election, I will write about what I think the platform might look like - just one man's opinion.

I have a decent amount of respect for political parties but have realized that over time they always end up as oligarchies - where a few have control and the many are herded into supporting a special interest agenda.

That is why I am big on issues and the principles that undergird all political economies. I think that if each individual has an opportunity to look at their own reality, the condition of their community, the universal principles present in any society and the various forms of governing philosophies, they would be incredibly empowered.

I also am a big supporter of referendums and initiatives inside of organized bodies, which I think, truly empower the membership bodies of any organization and slow down the oligarchic impulse by making the leadership accountable to the rest of the membership body.

So, I think, at this stage, it is much more important that the Hip-Hop community have an open forum on the issues that are important to it than it is to go along with any voting drive that poses as a "political movement". While many Democrats like for Blacks and the Hip-Hop community to think that voting is politics, nothing could be further from the truth. Voting is part of politics, but the educational process; open discourse inside of the community; and recognition of real issues and the nurturing of candidates is much more important than casting a vote every four years. And I especially hate when any person is forced or shamed into voting by someone who refers to the blood that was spilled by those who came before them.

These same people who talk like this are rarely ever involved in developing candidates in between election years. As if our ancestors died so that those who came after them could vote for people who they have never even seen or met or who don't even respect the community that they want votes from.

What good is a vote if it is for a prearranged outcome? Or if it is for candidates that won't even listen to you? If the Hip-Hop community could reach any kind of consensus on issues it would be in a much better position to engage electoral politics - even to support candidates that truly come from the community. At present, all political talk juxtaposed to the Hip-Hop generation is couched in terms of 1 or 2 issues championed by a leader outside of the Hip-Hop community or in terms of voting for Democrats or Republicans.

To me, if that is all that the Hip-Hop community does, then to me, it ceases to be a part of the Hip Hop Community and becomes the servant of another group or community or special interest that it gives, sells or loans its great numbers, popularity and resources to.

There is nothing wrong with coalitions. But there is something wrong with so-called political movements that come in the name of "Hip-Hop", but which relegate the community to "junior partner" status.

No, at this point, I would be very slow to say that Hip-Hop is a political movement; rather it is a cultural and economic force being directed, at times, by members or representatives of the American political establishment who most frequently come around when they want a vote or some campaign donations.

A perfect example of where the rhetoric of the Hip-Hop community isn't reflected in its practices...

Cedric Muhammad

Friday, August 18, 2000

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The views and opinions expressed herein by the author do not necessarily represent the opinions or position of or Black Electorate Communications.

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