How Rock the Vote Changed the Way Young People Viewed Politics

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It all began with a single image: a bikini-clad Madonna wrapped in an American flag.

“Truth is where you find it. Get up and vote,” the artist broke it down “Vogue”-style as two dancers waved flags behind her. “Dr. King, Malcolm X, freedom of speech is as good as sex.”

Then, she delivered her final tantalizing line: “And if you don’t vote, you’re going to get a spanking.”

And with that, Rock the Vote had released its first PSA.

If Madonna was hoping to elicit a reaction from the American people, she got her wish. The pop star set off a flurry of criticism, with the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization accusing her, according to The New York Times, of “desecration of the flag.”

But, as the singer’s publicist, Liz Rosenberg, said at the time, ”That was certainly not Madonna’s intention at all. My sense is that wrapping the American flag around her is not insulting. It is essential that people should vote. She’s trying to get that message across in a humorous, dramatic way. But she’s very serious about the issue.”

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