Fox News Astonished That Musicians Aren’t All Republicans

From “Born in the USA” (CNN) onward, American election cycles have only ever had one consistent narrative: that of the Republican presidential candidate fucking up and playing a song by a publicly leftist musician at one of their rallies. Tom Petty and John Mellencamp (Rolling Stone) have been on the receiving end, as has The Boss, and every time the lingering embarrassment (because, while the actual accomplishments of his presidency are subject to debate, it is indisputable that Reagan somehow fucked up at understanding a Bruce Springsteen song) could have been avoided if maybe someone in the campaign just asked first and got the response, “We hate your ideology and policy ideas, so no.”

It’s pretty easy to understand why! The kind of populism espoused by Springsteen and his ilk – the difficulties of the working class, the hopes and dreams of the youth of rural and dying-urban America, the value of collectivism and “we’re-all-in-this-crapheap-together” communal spirit – is only one strain of leftist thought commonly espoused in music. This is because people interested in forward-thinking culture, self-expression, and the like tend to like social and political policies that make those things possible, and so tend to be leftist before they even get into music, and then write a bunch of leftist music, and you can kind of see how this goes.

That conservatives who enjoy Springsteen-esque roots-rock are at odds with their musical idols’ politics is, one would hope, a fact that those conservatives who are fans of the band have thought about and simply made peace with, because it’s hard to begrudge someone for thinking Bruce Springsteen is a pretty good songwriter. But it’s surely not a surprise. Right?

So why do Democrats seem to get more free passes then Republicans?


“Musicians are part of the entertainment industry which is mostly anti-Republican. So lefty performers hate having conservatives use their music,” says Vice President of the Business & Media Institute and political commentator, Dan Gainor. “There’s definitely a PR component to complaining about politicians using your music. If you have a hardcore lefty base of listeners and you bash Michele Bachmann, then you score points. Imagine if a liberal tried to use Toby Keith’s ‘Courtesy Of The Red, White, And Blue.’ Keith and his fans would rightly be upset. But that never happens since liberals don’t like images of the flag.”

Hahaha, yes, keep deluding yourself. (Huffington Post) Toby Keith hates liberals and liberals hate America.

[Romney attorney Larry] Iser disgarees.

Yeah, I mean, it’s patently obvious, right? These dudes actively do not want Republican presidents. They play at Democrat rallies and stuff. Glad you got my back, Larry.

“I would say certainly in recent years, there’s been a greater unlicensed use of songs by Republican candidates,” Iser, said. “The point that the musician is making is not about the [political] party. The position they’re taking is: This is what we do for a living, we are protected by copyright, and if you’re running for election, you need to respect the law. It just is a coincidence really, simple as that.”

Iser stresses that when it comes to music and campaigns, artists and songwriters only want to protect their intellectual property rights and ensure that they aren’t involuntary endorsers of candidates and campaign messages.

Well, on the plus side, we’re maybe one election campaign for a Fugazi reunion spurred on exclusively because John Huntsman starts using “The Argument” as background music. (Fox News)

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The technical uberlord of the Prairie Dog website.

18 thoughts on “Fox News Astonished That Musicians Aren’t All Republicans”

  1. Good post. I’ve always assumed the average conservative fan’s fondness-mismatch with the working class, down and out themes of the gritty left-of-centre artist explains their general crabby obvious hatred of the self. Like, it’s so weird when they (today’s “non-nonsense, right of centre, 50-somethings) hang onto their fave artists and bands, who were big in the 70s and early 80s, even though those artists are flaming liberals. And what’s with Stephen Harper’s fondness of the Beatles? Every single one of them espoused (and still do) anti-establishment, liberal philosophies. He’s such a schmuck. Anyway, it must HURT to get old and see your musical idols of old don’y much care for the type of person you’ve become.

    As for the 2012 race, I pretty much think of Romney as a Democrat, and all Obama has to do to beat him is to demonstrate how impractical it would be to change presidents at this moment in time. BTW, where’d all the New World Order Repubs go?

  2. Don’t blame Ronnie for the Springsteen fiasco. It was George who misunderstood the lyrics. George Will. Conservative columnist.

  3. Here’s a (sort of) dissenting opinion, via Mike Barthel at the Village Voice:

    “For all the supposedly progressive politics of rock and pop, the structure of the business is incredibly entrepreneurial, with musicians required to front a remarkable amount of their own money for instruments, travel, and recording before they see any sort of return on their investment. There’s no large-scale structure that can provide steady employment (and health insurance) while nurturing innovation, just a produce-or-die ethos that receives no subsidies or grants. In America, at least, one of the few areas of life in which government really does have minimal involvement is pop music.”

  4. further, there’s an argument to be made that authorial intention doesn’t count for squat. If enough people misunderstand “Born in the USA”, then “Born in the USA” can and will become a right-wing anthem. Think about “beg the question”… meaning is elastic and independent of its creator.

  5. For me, Springsteen is not a problem. It’s those blasted R.E.M. lyrics I can’t figure out.

  6. I don’t know, the Beatles Taxman was pretty clearly anti-tax which should resonate with Republicans. I’d think it would make good background music to an anti-Obama commerical once the real election finally gets going. But then, maybe I misunderstood the lyrics.

  7. Born in the USA proves that Republicans don’t actually listen to anyone but themselves and will not. “No, it’s about whatever I and maybe my daddy says it’s about, period. Go stuff a gas filled commie flag in your mouth and light it, you pinko liberal commie puke.”

  8. @6 Except that Obama hasn’t raised taxes on anyone, not that truth matters to Repubs

    @3 What?

    @7 Right on.

  9. @Nick – George Will was backstage at Max Weinberg’s invitation, but Reagan himself made direct reference to Springsteen in speeches. As such, and in light of Ron Paul’s racist newsletters coming to light once again, I think it’s important for us to act as if politicians are just as responsible for the words that come out of their literal and figurative mouths as the speechwriters &c. that put those words there. Misunderstandings of popular songs included.

    @Emmet – The New Critics’ “intentional fallacy” doesn’t hold a lot of water for me, I’m afraid. It always struck me as deeply solipsistic to take the artist out of the equation and place every bit of power in the reader’s hands, and it allows for texts to be abused horribly in the service of one’s own selfish ideology or interests.

    David Foster Wallace once said that “it’s important for art-fiction to antagonize the reader’s sense that what she’s experiencing as she reads is mediated through a human consciousness, one with an agenda not necessarily coincident with her own” (link here:, which I think cuts to the quick. People who want to leave out authorial intent invite the reader to be comfortable in their own little cage of experience, which is kind of anathema to the purpose of art. It’s how you wind up with the situations above; people take in art and, instead of reflecting on stuff that is already present within the work in order to try and maybe not only understand the people in the work but the people behind the work and the other people who might find something in the work, go ahead and project themselves onto it, as if the art was a cipher for their own ideology. They don’t bother thinking about other people in a space that has almost always been a way to get one thinking about other people. Nightmarish.

  10. I wish I had more time to troll and stir the pot here, but I’m going to side with Paco Ignacio Taibo II, no stranger to antagonizing his readers’ senses, who writes:
    “You have to be overindulgent to think that a metaphor is something direct. An arrow homing in on a target painted in black on the wall. It is not. It is dangerous, double-edged material. It is an ambiguous resource. It is the writer who creates it, but it is the reader who reinterprets it, adapting it to his own very particular aches and pains. You do not even own the ribbon in the printer you use.”

  11. @9 I don’t know much about art or music for that matter, but as far as I’m concerned when I listen to music it isn’t the message it’s the journey. In other words, if I don’t completely understand the artists intent or “agenda”, and I’m pretty sure in most cases I don’t, it doesn’t matter because I can interpret it within my “own little cage of experience.” I imagine (within that cage because what else could there be) that often the author’s intent is exactly that.

  12. #9 Probably, it had more to do with Nancy and her psychics than EITHER Ronnie or George.

  13. One of the things that should be mentioned is that the Republicans don’t care a flying fig about copyright — they’ll just use the music and screw the artist.

    Best example I can think of comes from the 2000 election when the Bush campaign used ‘Takin Care of Business’ at their campaign rallies. Randy Bachman found out about this when he was watching television and heard his music coming over the speakers at a rally, and had his lawyer send a letter to the RNC telling them to (1) pay the royalties, (b) apologize for the unauthorized use, and (c) not play his music without written permission.

    Randy never heard back until after the election, when he got a letter back from the White House, denying that they ever used the music. Randy had the videotape of the music being played — but as you know, the conservative side of the political spehere lives in its own self-created world.

  14. Screw the artist, indeed.
    Greg Beatty doesn’t believe in copyright either. He told me so himself.
    p.s. Maybe the politicians are playing the old “critical discussion” card here.


  15. Not true, Nick. What I said is that fair use/fair dealing is a long-standing and important restriction on intellectual property rights in our society to promote a free exchange of viewpoints. Here’s a brief definition courtesy of Concordia University library.

    “Fair dealing” offers some exceptions to the Copyright Act’s general prohibition on copying. Fair dealing allows limited and non-commercial copying for the purposes of research or private study, criticism, review, and news reporting.

    Proportionality is important in considering if use of a work might be considered fair dealing. In the CCH Canadian Ltd. v. Law Society of Upper Canada [2004] decision, the Supreme Court proposed the following criteria for evaluating whether a dealing is fair:

    •the purpose of the dealing
    •the character of the dealing
    •the amount of the dealing
    •the nature of the work
    •available alternatives to the dealing
    •the effect of the dealing on the work

    The purpose of the use, the amount to be used and alternatives available have to be considered, and must outweigh the nature and the effect of the dealing on the work.

  16. Right! Now I remember!
    Thanks, Greg, for clearing that up.


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