Astroturfing The Country Music Vote

As a former member of the Music Row Democrats, I found this story about Twang That Vote very odd. If ever there was a group that said one thing while doing another, this is it.

First of all, I have no problem with anyone trying to engage music fans, getting more people registered to vote, etc. Great idea, we all need to be involved. And this is admirable:

First on the agenda? Ridding people of the idea that country fans are all white, male Republicans.

Yes, that’s what we in Nashville have been saying since forever. But, dudes?

Hamel says “doing it through music is obviously great,” and he’s already gotten support from such artists as the Oak Ridge Boys’ Richard Sterban, Charlie Daniels and Eric Paslay, plus someone who perfectly straddles the world of country and Congress: Ayla Brown, the daughter of Sen. Scott Brown.

Oh, those guys. Right, they’ll certainly dispel those stereotypes. /sarcasm. This thing reads like a freaking press release. And please: Ayla Brown has zip to do with country music. She tried out for American Idol in 2006, getting the ax before making it to the top 12 singing Christina Aguilera and Celine Dion songs. I mean, seriously? “Perfectly straddles”? Give me a break.

And then there’s this:

In order to earn the support of such artists, Hamel said he had to assure them of one thing: There would be no Dixie Chicks moment.

“We’re not going to walk them into a punch. … They’re so risk-averse after the whole Dixie Chicks thing,” Hamel said, referring to the 2003 controversy when the group’s lead singer, Natalie Maines, said she was “ashamed” of President George W. Bush.

“We made a commitment to them and our corporate partners that we’re not going to get involved in compromising their brands as artists or their brands as corporations. We’re just going to talk straight about the importance of voting and civic duty and leave the rest to other people.”

Charlie Daniels, risk-averse? He can’t keep his fat yap shut attacking President Obama! He’s called him a socialist, an elitist, possibly a Muslim, and a failure. Post SCOTUS-healthcare ruling he Tweeted:

“No American right is safe now. Obama has just become a king.”

Not quite the same as saying you’re “ashamed President Bush is from Texas,” which is actually what Natalie Maines said, and as we all know is the worst thing you could possibly say about a president! Right? Of course, there won’t be any Dixie Chicks moments because It’s Always Okay When You’re A Republican.

So, no. I don’t expect any “Dixie Chicks” moments from a crowd of far-right Republicans pretending to Twang That Vote. I also don’t expect this to be anything other than what it obviously is: another piece of GOP astroturf. Here’s a bio on Max Hamel, he works for a Republican PR firm out of Virginia called Allied Public Affairs. His partner, Chris Ashby, has to be this guy, an election lawyer with a background in Republican campaigns. He’s supposedly one of the country’s top recount lawyers, and his firm does lots of work for lobbyists.

In other words, just another phony grassroots campaign designed to put some shine on the fading Republican brand. Good luck with that. Kids are pretty savvy today. Don’t think the Charlie Daniels vote is your target demographic, anyway.

It’s just all very puzzling. I’m okay with a conservative group reaching out to yet another demographic the Republican Party is driving away in droves: young people. But that’s so obviously not what this is. The whole “non-partisan” pretense is very weird, for one thing. And you aren’t going to reach young people with Charlie Daniels and Richard Sterban, who were last on the radio when I was in high school.

This has to be some kind of glossy PR campaign designed to attract corporate dollars (and provide cover to tour sponsors, promoters and venues scared of looking “too partisan”), because anyone with any connection to Nashville can smell the bullshit wafting a mile away.


Filed under 2012 presidential election, astroturfing, music and politics

13 responses to “Astroturfing The Country Music Vote

  1. AMEN, amen. Charlie Daniels, the one song wonder who has so disgraced this country with his support of GWB’s war and I think he even went to GITMO at one point talking about what a great patriotic place it was…or some such. I do remember he spread his worship of the Bush/Cheney wars everywhere back then. Just like Hank, Jr, there time in the public eye and any respect they ever had in “country music’ is long gone. Wonder how much of Mitt’s millions have these PR people wasted on this smoke screen. I doubt any young country fans will fall for the mess…and the stars who truly believe in our President say very little to ‘protect their fan base’. Cute slogan, Twang the Vote, but misleading details. And I didn’t see a word about these bozos actually getting involved in ‘protecting the vote’ or registering new voters, or even telling the thousands without ‘photo IDs’ how to get one before Nov 6…maybe I missed that part!!

  2. themadkansan

    …Honestly? I haven’t even listened to country music for decades.

    I heard ‘Back in Black’ one night, when the local country station experimented with a late-night rock format, and from that point, I was gone. 🙂

    Even when I =have= been subjected to “modern” country music, I can’t stomach it – they’ve adopted the same flavor-of-the-week! corporate turnout that pop/adult-contemporary has, and it all sounds the same now.

    Of course, living where I do, it’s hard =not= to hear the dreck…

    • There’s a lot of really good country music out there these days — but there will always be dreck, too. Every genre has its dreck!

      • ThresherK

        But country music is harder to do, for almost Zen-like reasons.

        I can understand all the words. Unlike pop or rock, catchiness, or a great solo, won’t flesh out two ordinary verses and one chorus to 3 1/2 minutes of radio playability.

        Country hasn’t thrown away its past. So it’s almost like there are no real new song idea for country out there, and one’s new song will be put up against over 50 years of good stuff. It had better hold up.

      • That’s a good point. Although, I think that’s true of any art form. There’s really just one story; the thing is finding a new way to express it.

  3. ThresherK

    I’m jes a DamnYankee, but even I was embarrassed to watch one of the GOPers sing “Sweet Home Alabama” with a member of Alabama. (Was that Mitt?)

    The singer bore it pretty well–not even an eye-roll.

  4. Randy

    Lots of good song writers in Country. I hesitate to slam the entire genre because of the commercial stuff. But if you happen to live in Tennessee just say Steve Earle to a rightie and see what happens.

  5. Linda Featheringill

    Who are younger country music fans listening to these days?

  6. I like Suzy Boggus, Kathy Mattea, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Emmylou Harris–none of whom I consider “country”. I consider them to be be sin ger/songwriters/musicians who sing some “country”. Patsy Cline was great at singing “country” but she could sing anything she had a mind to.

    Most of the “country” bands up this way are clones. They are like most of the rock, reggae, pop, jazz and other bands. They don’t offer anything original and, the majority of them, just aren’t so good I want to go hear them when I can listen to the originals at the house. When I say “most” I do mean “most” but that still leaves some great bands to listen to. Most of the music I pay to hear these days is quirky shit by bands like “The Dust Poets”, “Creaking Tree String Quartet”, “Beaucoup Blue”, “Red Molly”, “Delta Moon” and others who have played at my local “Music Hall”.or at Oswego, NY’s “Harborfest”.

    I will be curious to hear what sorta music Bella Fleck and Abigail Washburn’s offspring might play–if they have children.

    Charlie Daniels, btw, is not the best fiddler I’ve heard in the last couple of years–not including the great fiddlers who show up at the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival.

    • I like Suzy Boggus, Kathy Mattea, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Emmylou Harris–none of whom I consider “country”.

      I love all of those artists, and all have had big country hits, though I’d say none of those names are current country radio favorites. You have good taste! Kathy Mattea and Suzy Boggus have two of the most gorgeous voices ever to grace the airwaves, and Carpenter and Harris are phenomenal songwriters (not to diss either one in the vocal department either, they’re amazing …).

      One thing I remember about the brief summer I spent in the Northeast was the huge amount of folk and bluegrass festivals y’all have. I spent one summer living in the Delaware Water Gap area and I spent just about every weekend going to a different music festival — all within an hour or two’s drive of where I lived. I felt like I’d died and gone to heaven! I did Clearwater, and some others I don’t remember (I STILL have my Clearwater T-shirt, that was back when they made stuff to last!) I was a big fan of Nanci Griffith, Lyle Lovett, Bonnie Raitt, Claudia Schmidt, Robin & Linda Williams, New Grass Revival — and as diverse as those artists are, back in the 80s you could see them all at the same event!

      It was a big shock to move to Tennessee, home of Music City, and not have all of this great live music. There were a few events but not like in the Northeast. I blame the heat here — it’s too fucking hot, even for Bonnaroo.

  7. krissy

    Don’t they remember that only a few months ago at the CMAs a bunch of artists joined Willie Nelson for “Roll me up and Smoke Me when I die”? Country music artists have a lot of different opinions and its important that it doesn’t become a right wing ghetto of blandness. It just came out today that the Cochella music fest donates to republican causes so hipsters are just as bad.

    • It just came out today that the Cochella music fest donates to republican causes so hipsters are just as bad.

      That’s not entirely true. AEG, the concert conglomerate which produces the event, is part of Phillip Anschutz’s empire, and he’s always been a major conservative benefactor. But he also owns the Staples Center in L.A. and the Target Center in Minneapolis. It’s no more accurate to say the Coachella Festival’s hipsters fund Republicans as it is to say someone who works at the Staples Center donates to the GOP