Artists and others raise their voices for the election

by Caroline McKenzie | 11/2/04 6:00am

Campaign trail theme songs are nothing new. Celebrity artists were even making a splash back in 1960, when Sinatra himself provided JFK with the tune "High Hopes." Today, Bruce Springsteen -- the politically-conscious "Boss" who famously refused Ronald Reagan the right to use "Born in the U.S.A." on his campaign -- is providing Kerry with the trail theme "No Surrender." And who could possibly forget Al Gore using Paul Simon's "You Can Call Me Al" on his 1992 campaign for veep?

So artists' participation in politics is far from a new commodity. What is stunning though, on this Election Day, is the vast number of actors, musicians, artists and fashion designers who are making their voices heard -- and trying to encourage voters to raise their voices at the same time.

Much of the entertainment scene this year has carried a strongly anti-Bush flavor. "Fahrenheit 9/11," Michael Moore's latest motion picture, became the first documentary to cross the $100 million box office mark in the United States this year. The film, which was a pointed criticism of Dubya and the War on Terrorism, also won the Palm d'Or at Cannes.

Furthermore, two volumes of punk compilations titled "Rock Against Bush" have been released this year, making clear the political leanings of artists who contributed. And punk veterans Green Day also released an almost equally obviously titled album ("American Idiot") about you-know-who.

It's not just the punks either. Alternative rock godfather, Morrissey, a British citizen who has resided in the United States for several years, has placed a statement on his website urging people to vote against Bush and "bring sanity and intelligence back to the United States." Perhaps this is no surprise from the strongly political artist who entitled the first track on his latest album "America Is Not The World."

An equal number of artists, however, are supporting the Democratic Party and John Kerry instead of just protesting Bush. Independent punk hero Ted Leo has been headlining a tour called Concerts For Kerry. And indie rockers also wave the Kerry banner, with such groups as Death Cab for Cutie and Bright Eyes headlining the Vote for Change tour alongside rock veterans like Springsteen and R.E.M.

This is not to say there are no pro-Bush celebrities. While fervent Republicans in the arts community are most definitely a minority group, there are still those who actively speak up for the incumbent. Country group Brooks and Dunn are lending their voices to the Bush trail, while Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mel Gibson are also strong supporters.

Equally important, if not more so, are the non-partisan groups who are urging the vote rather than peddling to a particular party. Fashion lines in particular are urging people to vote by emblazoning T-shirts with hip taglines. "Sex and the City" style guru Patricia Field started a line of "Let's Vote" T-shirts, which are available on her website and in her NYC boutique. Even DKNY has teamed up with Rock The Vote to produce clothing that urges wearers to use all their political power.

P. Diddy is also doing the right thing, reaching out to young America with the slogan "Vote or Die!" Diddy's organization, Citizen Change, focuses more on getting youthful voters to hit the polls than endorsing a candidate -- even though P. Diddy is known to publicly criticize Bush and was found socializing at the DNC. While prompting the youths, he's also won support of the elders. Hillary Clinton is a fan. So is Larry King.

So when you hit the polls today and fill out your ballot, you can be pleased. Just because you voted, somewhere out there P. Diddy is smiling.