Springsteen appearance aims to spark voting interest


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia

Musician Bruce Springsteen will make an appearance in Ames on Thursday to “encourage students to participate in early voting.” Presidential elections have started using celebrities to support their campaigns because celebrities may influence the votes of those who are undecided.  

Julia Ferrell

The role of musicians and celebrities has played a part in politics and voting for years, and this election season is no different.

With early voting sites recently open, celebrities have been flocking to campus to get the word out.

Obama for America has scheduled appearances by Justin Long and Bruce Springsteen for its week-long “campus takover,” in an effort to encourage students to participate in early voting.

Erin Seidler, Obama spokesperson and communications director for Obama in America- Iowa, said the hope of Springsteen’s performance is to get students inspired to participate in the early satellite voting locations on campus. Seidler also noted students can follow more of the week’s events at #CampusTakeover on Twitter.

“Bruce Springsteen is an icon, and he is popular and has a positive voice for President Barack Obama,” Seidler said.

Patrick Fleming, frontman of local band The Poison Control Center, said Springsteen’s acoustic performance at Hilton today is not only an opportunity to see his favorite musician for free, but is also a good way to stir up some excitement for the campus takeover event.

“This is just a perfect opportunity to support something I support anyway and see one of my all time favorite musicians,” Fleming said. “Musicians and stars and people with a large audience have a lot of power. Bruce Springsteen just has the influence to get 30,000 people into one room because they just love his songs… . It’s all about star power.”

This is not the first time Springsteen has appeared on the campaign trail. He started in 1972, when he endorsed George McGovern’s presidential campaign. Since then, he has been involved in John Kerry’s 2004 and President Obama’s 2008 campaigns. October 18 will mark his first appearance on the 2012 campaign, when he performs in Parma, Ohio and Ames.

David Stuart, associate professor of music, said the involvement of artists like Springsteen is not uncommon. Since Vietnam, Stuart said artists have started voicing their political opinions.

“John Lennon was one of the first to have this stuff happen. Nobody cared who Elvis voted for. Nobody cared who Frank Sinatra voted for,” Stuart said. “Suddenly, their opinions started to matter to their fans.”

Fleming said the role of musicians is a key part of the campaign trail, as “musicians have a voice” in the process. When Obama visited campus earlier this semester, Fleming was asked to make his voice heard as an opening act for the event.

“I got a call from the Democratic Party of Iowa, which I would be a member of. They asked if I could pump up a crowd of 5,000 people opening for Obama,” Fleming said.

Fleming agreed to perform at the event, because he supports Obama in this year’s election. Fleming also noted The Poison Control Center has played a few fundraisers for Obama this year, as well as one for John Kerry’s campaign in 2004.

Fleming said there are three things musicians and celebrities can donate to have their voices make a difference in “something they believe in”: Time, talent and treasure.

“I don’t have a ton of money, so I can’t donate a ton of treasure to Barack, but I could donate some time and talent. Music is something I’ve been doing for a long time, and I definitely have time,” Fleming said. “If you can donate two of the three, then I feel like you’re doing OK.”

Stuart compared the use of Springsteen’s time and talent on campus to the mission of the national organization, Rock the Vote, a group that strives to engage young people in politics through the use of music and pop culture. Stuart hopes the performance on campus will encourage students and the community to get out and vote in the election.

“It is primarily trying to get people to go vote. To some degree, lots of people feel disenfranchised. They don’t believe their opinion matters,” Stuart said. “Maybe some famous celebrity says ‘Hey, go out there and vote.’ Maybe that makes a difference.”

Stuart noted that the use of celebrities like Springsteen and Long can have an impact on swaying the vote, but it “depends on the message and what kind of message the entertainer is presenting.”

“We’re being bombarded with people’s sides. Entertainers can’t ignore that and just say ‘I’m famous’,” Stuart said.

While Fleming has decided to go to the Springsteen concert “strictly on entertainment value,” he said the free celebrity appearance will likely have the power to sway undecided voters.

“Bruce Springsteen is a person that’s been around for a long time… . In our state, if you’re on the fence, those are the people they want to sway one way or the other. If you’re listening to Bruce Springsteen and he says something that connects with you…it might just be something that Bruce or Clint [Eastwood] said,” Fleming said. “They’re going to get people that might not know or go to see Barack or Mitt Romney or Bill Clinton speak. Barack Obama hasn’t been putting out records since the 70s.”

Whether Springsteen’s performance manages to win undecided voters or not, Stuart said the bottom line of the whole election will be about which candidate managed to get their voters involved.

“It’s going to be interesting to see what happens. I think the bottom line is it’s going to be a matter of who gets their people out to actually vote,” Stuart said. “From that perspective, that may be why this is so important and why the celebrities are jumping on board to try to do things.”