According to a report by Slate’s Dave Weigel, the Romney campaign is targeting a thin slice of swing voters — the “sad-former Obamaian.” These are the folks, Team Romney believes, who still have a personal affinity for the president, but feel let down by his uneven first term. They just need some reassurance that it’s okay to vote for Mitt Romney.
At Nationals Park last week, Bruce Springsteen, though still very much an Obamaian, tacitly expressed this disappointment. He was introducing the song “We Are Alive,” from his most recent album Wrecking Ball. The folksy tune, which quotes the famous horn arrangement of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” is a kind of Progressive ghost story. Childlike, the song’s narrator puts his ears next to cold gravestones and hears the voices of history’s nameless agitators — a railroad worker killed in the Great Railroad Strike of 1877; a civil rights demonstrator killed in Birmingham in 1963; a Mexican migrant who dies crossing the desert.
Springsteen affirms their struggles with the refrain: “We are alive.” Though their bodies “lie alone here in the dark,” their “souls and spirits rise,” linking the struggles of the past continuously with the present.
“There’s a train coming,” Springsteen says, in a moment I captured on iPhone below (it’s shaky and darkly lit, but it gets the point across). “Down through history. There’s always a train coming. It never quite seems to get there. Never quite makes the station. But there’s a train coming”:
History as a locomotive, with a fixed destination: a classic progressive metaphor. And yet Springsteen, who has chosen to sit out this election cycle after prominently spending political capital for Obama and Sen. John Kerry, seems chastened by the fact that this Train “never quite makes the station.”
The conservative, of course, could have warned Springsteen of this eventuality.