Drinking cider and hard loving, my girl left me high and dry and run off with my dog in my pickup truck. Your cheating heart spreads republicanism while rocking Neil Young will democratize you. In 2008, an obscure (to me anyway) country music singer named John Rich wrote and sang a song called “Raisin McCain” in support of Republican Presidential candidate John McCain. Conversely, his running mate Sarah Palin was somehow linked to a song called “Who let the pit bulls out”. Who let the pit bulls out while I was raisin McCain?
I started in radio at the tender and impressionable age of seventeen up in the hills of east Tennessee. Up yonder, up around Holston Mountain way, there was more raw country and bluegrass music than you could swing an empty cider bottle at. Many of those cider-pickled hillbillies were members of the Republican Party in their political philosophy, whether they knew it or not. They were as anti-city slicker as country can get in the United States.
The good ‘ole days
I remember playing Jim Stafford’s hit “The Streak” over and over – and somehow I knew it was Democrats that kept requesting that song, over and over. They did it to torment me; they somehow knew I subscribed to another political party than they did. The phone lines stayed lit – those darn Democrats.
That got what’s left of my brain to thinking about the political connection and country music. Country music is the music of everyday people, isn’t it? Country music is the music about families and mommas and trains and babies and dogs and whiskey bottles. Why would we not belong to the political party that cares so much about health care for seniors and children? Why would people in the music of wide open places and green green grass of home not want to be in the political party that protects God’s green earth from the pollution-mongers and the global-warming big shots who may or may not have been a Vice-President at one time? That got me thinking, and thinking is dangerous for me to do sometimes.
Top ten red and blue
The top ten states for country music is the year 2008 were: Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri, West Virginia, Georgia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Tennessee (of course), and Texas – in that order from ten to one. In the 2008 Presidential election, the country music blue states were: Pennsylvania…and…and… Pennsylvania. All the rest were country music red states.
The question that must be looming large on your mind, I know it is on mine, is… just exactly what does that tell us? What significant but totally useless yet pertinent tid-bit of information did we fail to digest? Are Republicans more country than rock? Do Republicans love babies and momma and dogs and trains more than Democrats do? Are those long-haired hippies sitting by the creek puffing and inhaling on strange smelling tobacco really more democratic than say – you and me?
Modern day country music provides the most convincing and straightforward insight into existence in rural, home-spun America. Unlike earlier comic strips of old-timey country music with its back-woods hillbilly stories of hard drinking and cheating hearts, modern day hits often tell a more complex story day by day struggles that echo strongly with many of us who listen.
Top country countdown
Listen to the most recent country countdown on the radio. There’s one song about a wife struggling to keep her family together while her husband is off fighting in the Iraqi war. There is another one with an emotional stanza about a guy trying to be a better person in the middle of losing his job and hoping to discover life’s purpose. Another hit describes the family traditions passed down from father to son and the insights that come with the passing of time. Finally, there is the song about reaching out and taking our country’s riding boot to the behinds of the terrorist enemies who want to hurt us. The songs describe plain old everyday people striving to live a better life in the middle of the daily reminders of failure.
Country music is also revealing of a deeper atavism that lurks in the current American world-view. There is the occasional pride in ignorance as well as the seeking of refuge in black and white simplicities. Foreigners do not fare well generally, when they are not altogether ignored in song lyrics, and the overall country music genre does serve some generous helpings of chauvinism to go along with the biscuits and red-eye gravy.
Even with its love for the vehicular and down-trodden, the alcoholic and the train, country music is the best place to start to learn a little something about what it means to have a family and to struggle making ends meet; doing it the honest way… to maybe own a pump shotgun or a big old pickup truck, and to support our troops unquestioningly.