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Black Sky Thinking

The Unusual Sensation Of Feeling Sorry For The US Republican Party
Luke Turner , November 4th, 2008 16:12


On pop clout alone, Mr and Mrs Obama ought to be measuring up for White House curtains even as the first votes are cast in this most momentous of US Presidential elections. There's the list of musical supporters that reads like Rolling Stone's cover stars of the past few decades (Jay-Z, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Ludacris, REM, The Game, and on), and when Beyonce comes out and calls you the "American Dream", surely you've got it made. When it comes to music, the Democrats leave the Republican party looking like its clumsily flatfooted elephant emblem - even Colin Powell, shortly before he stuck the knife into the party that had put him one of the most powerful positions in the country, came to London for a dance with some Africans.

Yet there has been something worryingly self-righteous and smug about the antics of the American media and arts community during this epic Presidential campaign. The indie kids are the worst, the earnestness of America's self-appointed counter culture has led Pitchfork to portentously suspended its operations for one day, just in case the hipster hordes couldn't drag themselves away from their computer screens to vote for fear of missing the latest exploits of winsome indie types in straggly beards and check shirts.

Such is the desperation for change after eight grim years of Bush that even normal taste and decency has gone out of the window. Will I Am's 'Yes We Can' video is, to British eyes and ears, mawkish, patronising, and PC enough to make you consider sending a pair of scented knickers to Karl Rove with a letter begging him to come back, but probably plays well with the American demographic that shops in clothes stores where the garments aren't made by children in the Far East, and sees nothing wrong with attending open mic nights. In Britain, we perhaps have less truck with this sort of thing. When Lily Allen decided that she wanted to bring an end to knife crime via her mySpace blog (writing to the Mayor of London, "Boris, if your [sic] listening call me man"), most sensible people cringed. Similarly, Noel Gallagher's cavorting with New Labour in 1997 marked the point when Oasis started become engorged on their own bloated ego. We're a more cynical nation, less ready to be influenced by those who make up the contents of our record collection.

It's a sign of how divided America can be that the Republican party is so bereft of support among the musical fraternity. Who do they have? Hank Williams? The Ramones had to vigorously assert their political affiliation after the wife of the late Johnny came out in support of McCain, while at the end of last week there was a half-hearted endorsement from Aerosmith's guitarist Joe Perry, with the media using language like "Joe Perry comes out of the closet" to report the news. And as far as hip hop goes, the GOP has, er, this dude. Down on a grass roots level, one imagines that for every languidly drawling, tattooed American Apparel clotheshorse in the big cities playing gigs to get the people out to vote, there's probably a dozen old coves sitting on bar stools, plucking at banjos and singing ditties about how we don't want that Muslim in charge o'shit, no-sirreee no, and c'mon Owd Bob, do that funny one about them coloured folks. It's hardly surprising that swathes of this side of America get het up about a non-existent Democrat / liberal media conspiracy when they turn on the telly and see Beyonce and the righteous forces of artistic liberalism ranged against Joe the Plumber, and head down the bar or to church and drink and pray with those who think as they do.

If Barack Obama wins today, he'll inherit an America that could turn out to be a poisoned chalice. The economy in poor health, a stupendous national debt, two wars that aren't going to end any time soon, let alone get any easier, and a changing geopolitical paradigm where the rise of the Eastern economies is only going to serve to dent America's pride over the next four years. Could it be, come 2012, the cycle will have swung full circle and a resurgent new C&W/right wing punk/rap scene will be all over MTV, endorsing Republican Presidential hopeful, Sarah Palin?