The Modern Nexus of Pop-Music and Politics

One often wonders whether politicians are paying attention to young or younger-minder voters. I resist the term "millennial" because the newly active voter demographic should include, to an important extent, voters born at least as early as 1980.

I often espouse the opinion that Obama is successful because he is the youngest, least overtly political candidate for president running for the Democratic Party nomination in 2008. But tonight, watching Obama's speech in Iowa just prior to the official poll-closing in Oregan, I saw a glimpse of the new politics of which he promised to espouse. No, it was not in his pseudo victory speech. Instead, it could be heard in the outro music to his appearance tonight. One thing that I noticed early this season is that once Obama became the "front-runner" his outro-music for most appearances was Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours." That is a great musical call, but certainly more aggressive a campaign move than a political statement.

Tonight, however, I saw something different. And I wonder if anyone noticed. The prologue to this event is that days ago President Bush delivered a speech before the Israeli Parliament during which he analogized diplomacy with Iran, Syria, etc., to appeasing Hitler's Germany before or during World War II. Leave to one side the fact that (a) depicting a philosophy of diplomacy as akin to one of appeasement is nothing short of depicting an elephant's eating habits as indicative of that of rabbit (i.e. not at all similar); and (b) the only congressmen in the Untied States during the 1930s or '40s who favored appeasement were members of the GOP. Instead, focus on the important issue that President Bush is once again revitalizing the fear-mongering that has dominated politics since 2002. It is undeniable that the Karl Rove era, post-Cold War, politics is premised upon fear-mongering in the new foreign policy landscape. And it is quite clear that much of this theory is premised upon a parade of horribles in the middle east. President Bush escalated this to a new level in his speech overseas.

But today Obama responded. Not with rhetoric -- although he did deliver a speech reminiscent of his triumphant speeches in Iowa, South Carolina, and other genuine "Yes We Can" moments -- but with instant classic post-9/11 Bruce Springsteen. You most certainly will read about Obama's resurgent tone of confidence and change. More importantly, however, his speech ended with Springsteen's "The Rising." The album, The Rising, is a Springsteen's post-9/11 effort that is beautiful, sad, but most of all hopeful. (It has a sequence of songs: "Empty Sky", "Worlds Apart", and "Let's Be Friends".)

I'll spare you the details of my experience working on a campaign in fall 2002, taking the day off for the first anniversary of 9/11, and spending the day driving around the Rocky Mountains listening to The Rising for the first time (before listening to some Wilco and Jerry). But since that very first listen, what has always stuck with me is how the album -- and the title track -- is overtly hopeful. The Rising expressly rejects the notion that we should live in -- or vote based upon -- fear. Instead, in the title track's closing lyrics, the Boss opines that along with fear comes new opportunities for growth. In other words, new reasons to hope for an evolved politics. Admittedly, it is not Dylan in the '60s. But it is a 21st Century nexus of politics and meaningful lyrics. Here is the closing lyrics to the tune that Obama employed tonight, just prior to "Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours." Please, tell me if I'm crazy to think that employing this song as Obama's outro sends a message rejecting Rove's politics of fear.

Sky of blackness and sorrow ( a dream of life)
Sky of love, sky of tears (a dream of life)
Sky of glory and sadness ( a dream of life)
Sky of mercy, sky of fear ( a dream of life)
Sky of memory and shadow ( a dream of life)
Your burnin' wind fills my arms tonight
Sky of longing and emptiness (a dream of life)
Sky of fullness, sky of blessed life ( a dream of life)

Come on up for the rising
Come on up, lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight