At least since the Reagan era, politicians have attempted to co-opt the themes of popular rock songs to bolster their campaigns. And ever since, musicians have mostly complained about politicians using their music. While politicians of all stripes seem to love the anthems of such rock stars as Bruce Springsteen, the musicians themselves tend to lean liberal—and they don’t generally agree with the views of their politico fans.
Most recently, a long article in The Atlantic magazine profiling New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his “unrequited” love for The Boss examined this phenomenon. Christie is a hardcore fan of his fellow “Jersey Boy,” and has been to more than 100 Springsteen concerts. Suffice it to say, he’d love to hang out with Bruce. Problem is, The Boss doesn’t share the love.
As the article pointed out, most politicians of national stature are either too dull or too monomanically careerist to maintain fervent relationships with artists. And the artists, who are neither dull but possibly monomanical, are often put off, to be polite, by the right-wing leanings of those such as Christie, an abrasive blowhard we’ll see more of in the future, we’d guess.
The epic fail that was the Reagan campaign’s 1984 attempt to use “Born in the USA” still burns because then, as now, campaign strategists view popular music as simply that—a theme. If they had listened and understood the lyrics of that song, they would have backed off. Ronald Reagan surely didn’t have an iPod, and if he did it would not include Springsteen.
Fast forward to the present. Popular music is still a popular draw for politicians, increasingly so on the right, whose candidates continue to ignore or misinterpret the actual themes of the songs they embrace. It’s sad and they should stop. But they won’t—until threatened by a lawsuit, and those happen rightfully with increasing frequency. It’s fine to embrace musicians who embrace you—as Mitt Romney has done with Kid Rock and what’s left of Lynryd Skynrd—but other than that, just leave it alone, guys.
It’s a different story for Democrats. Fleetwood Mac had no problem with Bill Clinton using “Don’t Stop.” We’re not sure what’s on President Obama’s iPod, but we’d guess most of the artists would be pleased if he used their songs along the Campaign Trail.
Why? The short answer is most Republicans are shallow dicks, the kind of people who listen to Classic Rock and think modern radio formatting is just fine.
Which brings us to Andy Berke, our state senator and future mayor of Chattanooga—if all goes well for him, and that seems to be the case.
On Thursday, Oct. 4, Berke will hold his fourth annual “Springsteen Fundraiser,” from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Lindsay Street Hall. Berke, like many, is a Springsteen fan—although he falls short of Christie’s record of shows with only 25 concerts on his tally.
Berke is a moderate Democrat who is leaving his state office to run for mayor. His state senate seat, thanks to redistricting, will likely be filled by a Republican. He saw the writing on the wall and perhaps his mayoral run will serve as a springboard for a national run. As of now, he’s running unapposed for the mayor’s office, although that can and will change.
In the meantime, Berke is hosting his “Bruce, BBQ and Berke” fundraiser, a low-key affair he says is just an opportunity to “come out, have fun and listen to some music while talking about things that matter,” he told Nooga.com.
While the mayor’s office is not particularly partisan, Berke should assume power next March. He’s likeable, progressive and has an earned understanding of politics that Littlefield and other recent mayors have not.
As for his choice theme song for the evening, Berke told Nooga he’d selcect “Reason to Believe,” a bleak but hopeful cut from Springsteen’s 1982 album, Nebraska.
Like that album’s follow-up, Born in the USA, The Boss is clearly in dark territory on Nebraska, but finds him in flux, much like our country.
We’d like to think he’d approve of Berke’s event.