John Cougar Mellencamp versus Rush

A strange dichotemy:

Mellencamp is the most politically niave, knee-jerk “populist” rocker since… hmmm… since Springsteen. Or the Dixie Chicks. Or Pearl Jam. Or just about every other one of their pop peers from the past half century who have lapped up liberalism because That’s What A Good Artist Is Supposed To Do.

It’s irritating, to be sure, but the best antidote is a Rush album and a copy of Fred Goodman’s book “The Mansion on the Hill.”

The best antidote to John Cougar Mellencamp is a Rush album?

I’m not sure why this comment flummoxes me. Certainly in a political sphere, they are on different sides of a multi-dimensional spectrum… but why does one listen to music purely for political buttressing? (Surely there is something to a lament to losing your family farm. As an aside, I like Green Day better as its current political incarnation than when they sang about masturbation.) As for the artists… I don’t like John Cougar Mellancamp or Rush, but I don’t hate them either. Thanks to repeated play on classic rock radio, their hits are pretty well burned into my mind to the point where I no longer have to hear anything by Rush or by John Cougar Mellencamp ever again. If I wanted to hear them, I could just click a song from my mental jukebox, and wind it on through. (Of the two, I’d probably pick a Mellencamp Greatest Hits album over a Rush Greatest Hits.)

Some highlights of Rush:

A modern-day warrior
Mean mean stride,
Today’s tom sawyer
Mean mean pride.

Followed by 3 and a half minutes of pretentious prog-rock mist, before we move to the next lyrics. I hear that the 30 minute song they have on a latter day album, as Rush travelled ever more forthright into exploring the concepts of Ayn Rand, is even worse in this regard.

For his part, I have a few lines to add to John Cougar Mellencamp’s “Small Town”:

Went to some oddly hyped-up high school football game or other in a small town.
Shopped at a god-forsaken Wal-Mart and gained this vague sense of hopeless desperation in a small town.
And I ran the only stop light due to exasperation at the light not turning to green despite the fact that there is no traffic whatsoever in this same small town.

And on and on it goes.

I don’t know what politician would incorporate Rush thematically into their pander/ appeal. Mellencamp rebuked Reagan for using him. John Edwards took up the mantle of Mellencamp (Dean’s statement of his admiration for Wyclef Jean was a much more forced pander), and supposedly now In many respects he needed to lose the last run for the nomination – because in running for President, he found, not only himself, but who his people are. … which one can only muse on, trying to make sense of one single term in the US Senate (began in what had once looked like the comeback for Democratic chances in the South — 1998) and a vice-presidential run that ended without winning a single southern state.

I bring up John Edwards as a pointer to these woes of the Democratic party. On election night, you had Chris Matthews (I believe, but it might have been Tom Brokaw) saying something to the effect of “When you start off by taking the states where people speak in a Southern Accent and the states where everyone wears a cowboy hat off the table, you’re stuck having to win every other state, and good luck doing that.”

The North Carolina Senate race of 2004 ended up with two candidates pandering against NAFTA-type free trade (the manufacturing sector of the economy disappearing). I say pander because neither candidate had much credibility in that regard. The Democratic candidate, Erskine Bowles stood as a member of the Clinton administration… who, of course, pushed NAFTA through.

What you’re left with is, for any meaningful Democratic Party (as opposed to one who’s political instincts is to meet a Republican Party half way): for the west, as I posted earlier, the examples of Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, and Oregon reprentative Peter DeFazio. (I say that knowing that the state of Wisconsin isn’t Wyoming.) And, purely stylistically and not politically, John McCain. The south? We’re stuck considering the case of John Edwards. (Virginia, suddenly the most Democratic southern state at the moment, seems to be a case of Yuppie-ist cultural distancing.)

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