Twenty-five years ago, the artist formerly known as Madonna Louise Ciccone—dressed in a red bikini and draped in an American flag—vogued her way through an MTV public service announcement to extol the virtues and benefits of voting. The Material Girl was just one of myriad early-1990s musicians and celebutantes who jumped on the Rock the Vote bandwagon that encouraged young people to perform their civic duties and engage in the political process.
While Rock the Vote positioned itself as a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, the group’s not-so-hidden progressive leanings captured the attention of many disaffected, MTV-loving Gen Xers, and voting and registration rates among young adults ages 18 through 24 spiked to 42.8% in 1992, leading to the election of America’s first saxophone-playing, allegedly kinda-sorta-maybe pot-smoking POTUS.
Fast-forward to 2016 and the current election cycle, and the idea of rocking the vote seems positively quaint to most Millennials, garnering about as much relevance or appeal to young voters these days as MTV—or Madonna, for that matter. In a year when the so-called youth vote could have a huge impact on the future direction of the country, even the once-influential Rock the Vote movement has been suspiciously absent from public discourse, with the group’s last big commercial effort appearing more than a year ago in support of rallying young people to vote in midterm elections.
History may show that the olds always have been more likely than younger voters to be engaged with politics because of reasons, but save for a brief case of Feeling the Bern earlier this year, Millennials appear to be especially apathetic toward presidential politics these days. That’s not to say that Millennials don’t have a coupla bones to pick with government. Millennials are deeply concerned about hot-button issues that range from the economy and jobs to climate change and Black Lives Matter, but neither candidate in the Republican party or Democratic party has effectively ignited the full-throated support of Millennials in the same way that President Obama rallied young voters in 2008.
Polls indicate that while younger voters are more inclined to vote Democrat over Republican compared to older voters, the point spread is barely in double digits for Millennial voters, and reports suggest that the choice is less driven by passion and perhaps more driven by a sense of consolation. Even the history-making opportunity to elect the country’s first female commander-in-chief hasn’t seemed to compel Millennials to rock anything—at least not yet.
With the reality-TV sideshow known as the RNC convention in Cleveland concluding this week and the sequel known as the DNC convention in Philadelphia set to premier next week, Millennial voters may start to see the contrasts between the two main candidates for POTUS, and perhaps they’ll be called to action and finally engage in the political process. D-list “celebrities” notwithstanding (thanks a lot, Chachi Arcola, for ruining everything), without the endorsements of celebrities that Millennials can identify with, how are they supposed to make up their minds about who to meh the vote for, amirite?