VOTE DAMMIT!

“In the last presidential election, 100,228,726 Americans didn’t show up to vote.”
-Tag Line of Ani DiFranco’s VOTE DAMMIT! Tour

Among artists involved in this year’s get out the vote campaign, there seems to be no beating around the bush (no pun intended). Consider the mesmerizing, near-blinding spectacle of red, white and blue that surrounded the letters V-O-T-E on the set of Outkast’s closing performance at the MTV music awards, or the proliferation of musicians at campaign-related events. In this same vein, punk folk queen Ani DiFranco’s current U.S. tour is simply titled VOTE DAMMIT!

Inspired by low voter turnout in the past, the tour blazes though 12 identified “swing states” from now until early December. Special guests include comedian Margaret Cho, Indigo Girls, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and more. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), who has been in cahoots with DiFranco throughout both their careers, kicked off the first show.

Before sound check at her Baltimore performance last Friday, DiFranco took some time out to chat with college journalists from across the country.

“Young people were born into their disillusionment with the political system in this country,” she said. “We have never known a time when ‘politician’ was not synonymous with ‘greedy, calculating liar.’ So it is natural and smart to feel alienated from government.”

DiFranco explained her belief that low voter turnout stems from underlying messages in corporate America. “I think it has been many years now that we have absorbed the message that we are consumers, not citizens, and that happiness will come materialistically rather than through being an active member of a society,” she said. “Exercising our right to vote is simply necessary for creating democracy. Without participation we don’t have a democratic system, we have a capitalist system.”

DiFranco, a registered Democrat, said “It’s often the most conservative areas that I dread performing in because there is not a cohesive energy in the audience.” DiFranco named the situation in Iraq as an issue presidential candidate John Kerry has been “skimming because he’s a calculating politician, not a hero of our people. But hopefully this election will be a tiny step in the right direction,” she said.

Despite her personal politics, DiFranco said the tour aims at 100 percent voter turnout among audiences. Representatives from voter registration organizations, peace, justice, civil rights, environmental and other progressive groups will be present at every show to register voters and educate people about the issues.

“This tour and my politics have nothing to do with Bush,” she said. “Whether or not we are empowered citizens is an issue much bigger and more eternal than the joker in the Oval Office. I am simply about sharing and celebrating truth, in this and every tour.”

The VOTE DAMMIT! tour continues until Dec. 11. DiFranco’s upcoming album, which is to be titled “Knuckle Down,” is scheduled for release Jan. 25.

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