“That’s Not Democracy” – Target’s Political Gift In Song

Story By Susan Maricle, Video by Skye Steele
“That’s not democracy.

I’ve got a hundred thousand dollars

for a governor who’ll be nice to me.”

Professional violinist Skye Steele gave an impromptu performance to a manager of a Target store located near Steele’s home of Brooklyn, New York. The message, set to an upbeat bluesy tune on the mandolin: a protest of Target Stores’ decision to give $150,000 to MnForward, the political action group that supports Tom Emmer.

“I don’t live in Minnesota, but I do shop at Target,” Steele explained. He wrote the song That’s Not Democracy and decided to create his own video after seeing an UpTake video on MoveOn.org. In the video, a Target customer cut up her store charge card after returning a major purchase. The video was created for The UpTake by Bill Sorem.

Accompanied by his fiancée with a video camera, Steele visited the nearest Target and asked at the customer service desk to speak to a manager. He explained why, and said the customer service reps were polite and helpful. They told Steele, “You want to talk to a big manager.” Out came Ajay, the manager seen in the video. He too was courteous, Steele said.

Ajay acknowledged he had already received visits from customers who had given personal written statements to Target. The manager encouraged Steele to “do what he had to do.”

The musician admits to being nervous, despite having performed for audiences numbering in the thousands. “I guess sometimes the stakes are higher when it’s one-on-one,” he says.

After the performance, Steele said Ajay the manager told him, “Skye, your message came through loud and clear.” Ajay added that all he could do was apologize, that the decision to donate wasn’t his or the employees’. He also said he would definitely pass Steele’s message on to the corporate office.

Steele, 29, began studying violin was he was three years old. He has performed throughout the U.S., Brazil, Europe, and the Middle East. He has eight musical performance videos on YouTube, but says That’s Not Democracy is the first video of an “interventional” performance. He used this technique to deliver a message about climate change to New York’s United States Senators.

“This type of performing is brand new to me,” he says. “There will definitely be more.”

Steele said he finds Republican gubernatorial candidate Emmer’s positions on homosexuality, immigration, and labor “atrocious.” But the real issue, he says, is corporate money in elections. “If it’s not Tom Emmer, and if it’s not Target, it’s going to be another corporation using their wealth and might to drown out people’s voices.”

Steele hopes that unlimited corporate campaign spending doesn’t become “the new normal” in the wake of the Citizens United ruling. “Even if we can’t limit corporate involvement in our elections for now, then at the very least we should be able to hold them accountable by making them own up to the people that they’re supporting,” he says.

“The health of our government is what I’m interested in, and music is what I’m best at,” Steele said. “The ability to create a little bit of news is maybe one of the most powerful ways we can participate.

“What if everyone in America spent two hours a week holding their leaders accountable?”
THAT’S NOT DEMOCRACY
©2010 by Skye Steele (used by permission)

TARGET– has to pay minimum wage
EMMER– doesn’t like the minimum wage
TARGET– wants to buy the governors race
EMMER– will remember who paid to play

That’s Not Democracy
I got a hundred thousand dollars for a governor who’ll be nice to me
That’s Not Democracy
Just an investment to protect my right to underpay my employees
That’s Not Democracy
The people deserve better
That’s Not Democracy
The people deserve better.

TARGET– wants your business even if you’re gay
EMMER– thinks you’re an abomination
TARGET– doesn’t mind selling you out
EMMER– doesn’t care ‘long as the check doesn’t bounce

That’s Not Democracy
I got a hundred thousand dollars for a governor who’ll be nice to me
That’s Not Democracy
My bottom line is more important than your basic civil liberties
That’s Not Democracy
The people deserve better
That’s Not Democracy
The people deserve better

That’s Not Democracy
Citizen’s United is an attack on our liberty
That’s Not Democracy
We need equal protection from corporate intervention
That’s Not Democracy
If there’s no disclosure then there’s no accountability
That’s Not Democracy
When corporations buy elections
That’s Not Democracy
The house is with us.  Where’s the Senate?
That’s Not Democracy

They won’t do nothing ‘cause they need a super-majority

That’s Not Democracy

The people Deserve Better

That’s Not Democracy

The people Deserve Better

The text of Steele’s statement

Dear Target–  Please help our democracy stay healthy.  Don’t pollute our elections with your money.

$150,000 could be re-invested in our communities in many more productive and healthy ways.

I will not be your customer again unless your donation to MNForward is returned.    Sincerely yours,

–Skye Steele.  Brooklyn, NY.

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