Midterm elections are on Nov. 4, so it is no surprise that non-profit organization, Rock the Vote, has developed a series of commercials aimed at getting young people to register. Rock the Vote aims to engage people ages 18-29 by combining popular music, culture and innovative technologies to which they can relate. If you have spent some time on the Internet lately, surfing websites such as YouTube or Hulu, you may have come across the organization’s new series of commercials, titled #CareLikeCrazy, which are stirring up some mixed feelings over how they are executed.
In each of its eight commercials, #CareLikeCrazy covers issues that resonate with young voters: voting rights, voter turnout, institutional sexism, women’s rights, student loans, the environment, and military and foreign affairs.
In the commercial about voting rights, a middle-aged, affluent woman dressed in golfing gear with golf club in hand, turns to the camera and says in a rather condescending manner, “I vote, because only educated people with life experience should be voting. Not kids who think they know everything.” In the commercial about institutional sexism, a presumably successful businessman whirls around in his chair while sitting at his desk, looks straight into the lens and blatantly states, “You know what I’m not going to do? I’m not going to vote for anyone who tells me I’ve got to pay them as much as a man.”
According to a TIME magazine interview with Ashley Spillan, president of Rock the Vote, “[They] are looking at states with large populations of college students and making sure [they’re] getting as many young people out to vote as possible.” She goes on to claim that millennials have “tuned traditional political ads out” and that the #CareLikeCrazy campaign is intended to “meet young people where they are.”
With over 4 million people enrolled in colleges and universities in California, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, the language used in these ads is exactly what is offensive — Rock the Vote employs sarcasm to dumb down the issues young voters take to heart, and then use the excuse of leveling out the conversation just to get people registered and to the polls. Instead, Rock the Vote should use rhetoric that is indicative of the intelligence of young voters, especially if said issues require civic knowledge. The organization is deliberately choosing not to emphasize what exactly is to be voted for. This opposes the claim they make in their mission statement, which is to be viewed as a “trusted resource for young people, government agencies, and technological innovators passionate about political discourse and engagement.”
The U.S. Census Bureau reports that young voter turnout is on the decline, falling 6 percent between the Presidential election years of 2008 and 2012. This means that 1.8 million people who were registered to vote between the ages of 18-29 did not vote in 2012. More troubling is the fact that midterm elections tend to have lower voter turnout overall. According to Goodby Silverstein & Partners New York, Rock the Vote’s campaign partner, 77 percent of eligible voters ages 18-29 do not intend to vote in this year’s midterm elections.
Although Rock the Vote seemingly has good intentions with their #CareLikeCrazy commercials, it is not enough to urge young voters to register and show up on Nov. 4. It is essential that young voters are also equipped with knowledge and information about the issues, candidates and propositions on their ballots in order for their vote to truly count.