When you see the recent clips of the “Alabama” part of Pennsylvania, the rustiest parts of the Rust Belt, you can almost hear the Springsteen soundtrack.
Now Main Street's whitewashed windows and vacant stores
Seems like there ain't nobody wants to come down here no more
They're closing down the textile mill across the railroad tracks
Foreman says these jobs are going boys and they ain't coming back to your hometown
And Obama hits today with the ultimate rebuttal to Bittergate: the Bruce Springsteen endorsement.
Sure, he’s a niche artist nowdays, though the niche is still big enough to get a Number One chart debut for last year’s “Magic” album. (As Dennis Miller once said of Steely Dan, that may be because all the fans are 50 years old and can’t figure out how to download it for free.) A crossover country hunk like, say, Tim McGraw (one of the few country stars who's openly a Democrat), might have meant more with the target audience for next Tuesday than the aging (58) Springsteen.
And it’s worth debating how relevant any celebrity endorsement is, though the celebrity-obsessed political media culture will no doubt overkill this. Especially since most of the gatekeepers are old white guys (like me) who can't connect to anything that came out post-Cobain or post-hiphop except for retro-throwback Sheryl Crow, and will latch on to a rock star they actually recognize. Probably with a lot of bad lyrical references included; Obama was "Born To Run" for president, how will this endorsement play on the "Streets of Philadelphia," etc. (That was a preemptive pun strike on my part.)
It helps more than Hillary's Elton John fundraiser, which is now under attack because Captain Fantastic is a British subject. Which somebody should have figured out way ahead of time; I knew Elton was British when I was about nine, when "Crocodile Rock" was brand new and was one of the first 45s I bought. Question: if the wingers are attacking Elton for being foreign, instead of for being gay, is that progress or not?
But back to Bruce. The Obama endorsement is of a piece with Springsteen’s work since his urban landscape turned into an abandoned moonscape. It’s a long way from 1984, when Ronald Reagan tried to steal “Born In The USA” away from Springsteen, and Bruce: 1) wouldn’t let him and 2) got us to actually listen to the lyrics. It doesn't get much more "bitter" than that, even if it's set to a rousing shout-along chorus. Check out the demo version from the "Nebraska" session on the "Tracks" box set to get a quite different interpretation.
This will go down as one of the last nails in the coffin of Bittergate; the last nail will be whatever line Obama has ready for tonight's debate.