Is Bruce Springsteen a symbol of the decline of the Democratic Party?

One day in 1968, Bruce Springsteen received a draft notice from the Army and summoned him to participate in the Vietnam War. Springsteen was 19 years old and dropped out of a community college to focus on two of his favorite things: singing and playing guitar. He didn’t want to join the army, not only because it was far from the rock clubs on the Jersey Shore, but also because he didn’t believe in war.

The previous year, the civil rights protests in Newark, New Jersey had spread to Springsteen’s hometown of Freehold 40 miles south. Springsteen recalled, “There was a riot in Freehold”Traitor: Born in the United States,” A new coffee table book that includes a long conversation between him and former President Obama on political awareness in the summer of 2020. (The two shared a podcast with the same name.) Springsteen sees the number of blacks in the military Too many, economic opportunities are less than white people, he has “a feeling that the system is fixed and biased against many citizens,” he told Obama.

In the book, the 72-year-old Springsteen also explained the background of his political awakening. He described Freehold as a “typically small, provincial, racist” American town, a small village isolated from the world for the Memorial Day parade and VFW parade in the United States. His parents don’t talk about politics; they care more about whether they can pay the bills. In elementary school, when Springsteen asked his mother if his family was a Democrat or a Republican, she said: “We are Democrats because Democrats serve the working people.” In most cases Next, it was current events that began to form his politics, not his parents.

Springsteen successfully avoided the draft, and he told Obama that he pretended to be too stupid to fill out his draft. He recently had a motorcycle accident that caused a concussion, and the Army declared him 4-F. The most recent time he was from Vietnam was writing “Born in America”, which is an elegy dedicated to the soldiers who died in the Battle of Khe San in 1968.

“Traitor” did not continue to describe the process by which Springsteen became an open politician. But you canThe legendary 1979 nuclear-weapon-free concert,” Springsteen and the E Street Band performed a flawless 90-minute movie at Madison Square Garden as part of the anti-nuclear power welfare concert. (The DVD and CD were released on November 16.) One of the things worth noting is He never mentioned nuclear power.

Over the years, Springsteen “shows considerable upset whenever he is asked to talk about politics,” Eric Altman wrote in his 2001 book “Happy to be alive: Bruce Springsteen’s Promise “Wrote. Although Springsteen performed in the 1972 Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern’s fundraiser, he admired Bob Dylan, James Brown, and Curtis Mayfield who were socially aware but did not Singer with a clear political consciousness. Although he never claimed to be a leftist, the leftist found liberal themes in his songs. Again, the person on the right heard the conservative theme.

In 1982, Springsteen released “Nebraska”, a serious and boring album about the hard times of late capitalism, about “debt that honest people cannot pay” and “The despicableness of this world.” The music critic Greil Marcus called it “Ronald Reagan’s America” ​​as the most complete and perhaps the most convincing resistance drawn from any artist or politician. And rejection statement.”

Springsteen’s next album “Born in the USA” made him the biggest rock star in the world. For more than a decade, as part of its notorious southern strategy, the Republican Party has been repositioning itself as the party that speaks for the working people, in the words of Springsteen’s mother. No wonder his story about life in a small town will attract the attention of Republicans. “I don’t know anything about Springsteen’s politics, if any,” wrote conservative columnist George Will, “but when he sings songs about hard times, he will wave a flag at his concert. “Will called Springsteen’s song a “grand and cheerful affirmation” of American life.

A few days later, when President Reagan was running for re-election in New Jersey, he admiredly spoke of the “hope message in a song admired by many young Americans: New Jersey’s own Bruce Springsteen.”

Is there a premonition of doom in “cover me“Or “a better life than this” fantasyWorking on the highway“Constitute a cheerful affirmation? Is it a dead friend in “Born in America” ​​or the racial violence in “America”?my hometown“Contains the message of hope? Of course not. But Springsteen often used the image of the American flag in the 1980s. He began to realize that the image was not part of the message. Yes information. He made it possible for the right wing to choose his music.

During the American-born tour, he raised funds and donated money to local charities (mainly food banks). He later said that he felt that by maintaining a nonpartisan stance, while retaining a progressive vision for his music, he could build more credibility. Springsteen condemned Reagan’s acceptance of his music, but when asked if he preferred the Democratic candidate Walter Mondale, he shrugged: “I now feel that there is no real connection with electoral politics,” he Tell the interviewer.

“Springsteen’s songs are always politically consistent,” said David Masciotra, who was the author of the book “Working for Dreams: Bruce Springsteen’s Progressive Political Vision” published in 2010. author. Massiotra cites several examples, including anti-war songs”Finally die“And its companions,”magic,” Regarding political trickery, all from the 2007 albums “Magic” and “Streets of philadelphia“In 1993, the theme song of the first Hollywood movie “Philadelphia” to solve the AIDS epidemic. In 2000, Springsteen began to perform “American skin (41 photos)“To commemorate the death of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed Guinean immigrant who was shot 41 times by the New York Police Department because of his wrong identity. This is a song that the Republican Party cannot accept-Mayor Rudolf Giuliani condemned It, the chairman of the country’s largest police organization called the singer a “garbage bag”.

Massiotra added that Springsteen’s politics “is the best in the American progressive tradition: emphasizing the common ground of class interests and the struggle of working people, opposing the exploitation of labor from the corporate class and the political system that supports it, plus Radical and redemptive empathy, whether it’s the experience of immigrants, black Americans or gay Americans.”

Springsteen never mentioned politics when he wrote about politics. Despite this, Massiotra said, “He is uncomfortable, or at least not confident in expressing his politics in clearer terms.”

Twenty years after “born in the United States”, Springsteen gave up nonpartisan prejudice and became the protagonist of the 2004 “Vote for Change” tour, which featured musicians ranging from baby faces to REM, focusing on playing in swing states. Register young voters and defend the Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. Compete with the current George W. Bush.

“Why haven’t you been actively involved in partisan politics for so long?” Rolling Stone publisher Jayne Winner asked Springsteen in an interview in 2004.

“Sitting on the sidelines will betray my thoughts that I’ve written for a long time. Not participating, just being silent or being shy in some way won’t work this time,” Springsteen replied. He added that this election “is a very clear time for my position.”

A man is holding a guitar, and a woman is standing next to him, putting her hand on his shoulder.

Bruce Springsteen and Patti Scialfa reopened on June 26 at “Springsteen on Broadway” in New York.

(Taylor Hill/Getty Images)

The questions Springsteen cited in that interview were prescient: the emerging oligarchy in the United States, the economic inequality between the rich and the poor, the way politicians erase the line between truth and lies, the poisonous influence of Fox News, and the media’s influence on performance. The persistence of justice is that the problem becomes more and more important. They constitute most of the dialogue among the “traitors,” although Springsteen and Obama mostly avoided mentioning Donald Trump, the embodiment of these issues.

After the vote was changed, Springsteen not only announced his support for Obama during the 2008 election campaign, but also performed during campaign appearances and later Obama’s inauguration. Since then, he has become a royal member of the Democratic Party. In 2016, he performed at an election eve rally for Hilary Clinton in Philadelphia and endorsed her, while calling her opponent Trump a “blatantly poisonous narcissist.” In the 2020 general election, he narrated a TV commercial for Joe Biden, allowing candidates to use his music in their election campaigns. Performed at the inauguration ceremony.

It is foreseeable that Springsteen’s propaganda has led to accusations from many right-wingers that he is a “limo libertarian” who is out of touch with the United States and should shut up and sing. (Anyone who thinks his songs are different from his politics will not pay attention.) During the 2004 “Vote for Change” tour, the Wall Street Journal editor Phil Kuntz wrote in an article that his experience “as a Stubborn blues fans are about to become a little harder and less fun.” Springsteen’s conservative fans are getting harder and harder to reconcile their love of his music with their aversion to his politics. “I divided,” Springsteen fanatic and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie once said. “I found [Springsteen’s activism] It’s very annoying, but I like his music,” Sean Hannity said earlier this year.

When Springsteen took advantage of McGovern, the Democratic Party received reliable support from white working-class voters, while the Republican Party was a party of big companies and the rich. In the past 30 years, class relations have undergone a significant reversal, and Trump was finally elected; in 2016, the percentage of white voters without a college degree supporting Trump was 64% versus 28% for Clinton, and 65 percent in 2020 % Of people supported him, and at the time they accounted for 42% of the total voters. The characters in Springsteen’s songs—disillusioned Vietnamese veterans, people who make money on the street—are probably Trump supporters now. If the Democrats lose the House of Representatives in the midterm elections next year, it is mainly because the person most resembling his role no longer believes in what he did.

Some people inherited their politics as a birthright and joined the same political party as their parents. But some families, such as the Springsteens, do not matter to them politics. It is one thing to accept liberalism when you grow up around liberals. Although you have never encountered a liberal when you grow up, it is another thing to work towards it. In “Traitor”, Springsteen outlines the slow but true path he has traveled, starting from a small town where patriotism is synonymous with saluting the flag, and then gradually understands that patriotism is not about the flag, but about The ideal represented by the national flag.

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