Writing this, we’re but a few days away from the midterm elections. A just-released PBS News Hour/NPR/Marist Poll cites that 79 percent of Americans are concerned “that the negative tone and lack of civility in Washington will lead to violence or acts of terror.” If you’re programming a music radio station, there’s not very much you can do to help. But we were surprised, just the same, at the lack of unity around the radio dial in simply encouraging listeners to exercise their right to vote.
No matter which side of the political spectrum you sit, there’s nothing controversial in reminding people that it’s important to exercise their right to vote. It’s a message that’s import for all Americans, regardless of age or other distinctions. We heard some stations doing a fine job incorporating that message.
It struck us, though, that if we’re taking the obligation to serve the public interest seriously, it’s incumbent on all stations to remind folks to vote. The exact message might change depending on the demographics of a station’s listeners, but the urgency remains consistent.
Leadership on the local, state and national level will drift back and forth from right to left over the years. And we remain hopeful that it won’t take a catastrophe to remind us again that we are Americans first. We may not agree on the best policies to govern our nation, but faced with a truly hostile act from a foreign body or a real national crisis, we’ve seen again and again that Americans bond together.
Stations are licensed to local communities and it would seem that every station should anoint itself in charge of helping people get out to vote. Links to forms, dates, deadlines, websites, etc. can all be provided on station-sponsored websites. Alliances with organizations providing rides to polling places can be set up. It’s not critical which candidates people vote for, it’s just critical that they vote.
If your polling place has remained the same for enough years, you become aware of at least one person marching up at the same time you do – who is likely to be casting his or her vote the other way from your selections. And that’s okay. That’s democracy in action.
The radio dial has its share of partisan politics. NPR tries to remain neutral, but can’t help feeling just a little more comfortable to the left. Talk stations airing Rush, Sean and the like may have neutral news shows in the drives, but those stations mainly attract listeners from the right. Music radio can serve its communities by bringing people together – by unifying us – in our American right to vote.
Sure, it’s too late to do anything for the 2018 midterms, but the 2020 election cycle starts on Wednesday, November 7. It seems likely that we’ll all need some unifying to get us through to Tuesday, November 3, 2020.