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My family is politically involved and as yellow as Democratic dogs get, mostly because there aren’t very many out-and-out reds running for office in southwestern Virginia. (That’s “red” as in “menace,” not “red” as in “state.”) So at the age when I was supposed to be oblivious, I wasn’t, and one of the things that sticks in my mind about the 1984 Presidential election was Ronald Reagan’s hamhanded misappropriation of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.,” which everyone who actually listened to the song spotted a mile off and either cringed at or reveled in the schadenfreude depending upon leanings. The Boss, I gather, was pissed. Pissed enough that 20 years later he not only let John Kerry use “No Surrender,” he showed up at some rallies and played it personally. Just so there’d be no misunderstanding this time.
That song’s always going to be associated with a terrible What Could’ve Been now, I’m afraid. Just like Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop” is always associated with the grinning Clintons, a perfect juxtaposition because the song and the Big Dawg are irresistible in much the same way. They’re both glossy but a little wonky, probably in good part insincere but so charismatic and smart you just don’t care. Much.
It’s easier for Democrats to pick a theme song—the liberal talent pool is a lot deeper and broader, and Republicans tend to misstep when they stray too far away from patriotic chestnuts and country music. (Even then there are pitfalls—see the Dixie Chicks, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, etc.). G-Dub himself infamously misstepped in ’04 by nicking “Still the One,” that 70s hit by Orleans, to songwriter John Hall’s eloquent displeasure, which makes it even more delightful that Hall’s now a Congressman—a Democrat, of course.
What does all this have to do with Chicago music? Well, with the amusing spectacle of one of our senators very publicly nagging the other to run for President (seriously, he sounds like my mother: “You’re so talented! You can do anything! Why aren’t you President yet? Don’t waste it, you slacker!”), we might well have a hometown representative in the ’08 race. Our pride is at stake—we can’t send him off without a decent campaign song! I bet he’s not even thinking about this crucial issue yet—too busy meeting with people concerned with trivial things like money and strategy—so we have to step up and brainstorm.
Give me your best suggestions here, and I swear I’ll forward ‘em to Senator (at the moment) Obama. But be sure to keep the right vibe in mind, and remember that sadly, Brooks & Dunn are off limits—they’re Bush fans.