While we’re on the subject of musicians waxing poetic about Obama, a quieter but more powerful statement than Springsteen’s (to my ears anyway) comes from bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley, who released a radio ad endorsing Obama on Thursday. The ad is playing on stations in Stanley’s native southwestern Virginia–which has no shortage of country and gospel stations and not much to compete with them.
Stanley’s a lifelong Democrat, so this is isn’t exactly shocking. What makes the ad effective isn’t so much what he says as how he says it. I always get sentimental this time of year, but what really struck me is that the song playing in the background when Stanley says that young people shouldn’t have to leave home to find work–a huge sore spot down there–is “Rank Stranger,” about an Appalachian expatriate coming back and finding no familiar faces left.
While most of the counties where Stanley’s ad is airing are pretty red (with the exception of those that border on the coal fields of southern West Virginia), honor compels me to point out that the Fightin’ Ninth, the district that covers most of the area, has been represented in the House by a Democrat, Rick Boucher, since 1982. Charming stereotypes about backwoods Luddites notwithstanding, he’s founder and cochair of the House Internet Caucus. (Full disclosure: He’s also married to an editor of the Galax Gazette, a newspaper I wrote for in grade school. But he married her in 2006.)
Will Stanley’s endorsement matter? To a few people, probably, yeah. After all, there’s simply no way anyone in Virginia is going to be able to write off Doctor Ralph Stanley by God as “not one of us.”