Most Americans of a certain age can recall how Ronald Reagan’s 1984 presidential campaign was caught using Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” at stops without having actually listened to the lyrics first. That wasn’t the only Republican campaign to be so embarrassed, of course. It’s hard for conservatives to find songs—catchy, rousing songs—that weren’t written by artists to the left of them, and those artists don’t usually like having their work associated with (horrors!) conservatives. A member of the band Boston wasn’t too pleased when Mike Huckabee played “More Than a Feeling” during his rallies. Maybe that fear is why John McCain used the less than inspiring “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” (Pat Benatar) and “Take a Chance on Me” (ABBA). (Or maybe he just really likes music from the late 1970s most of the rest of us wouldn’t be caught dead listening to. Way to capture the youth vote, John!) The problem isn’t just that most artists are liberal, and so Republicans will eventually feel their wrath. It’s also that, as in the case of Reagan, whoever feeds these CDs into the machines usually hasn’t listened closely to the lyrics, and so is just asking for trouble. “Pink Houses” is not a conservative anthem.
This isn’t just an American phenomenon. Britain’s Telegraph takes stock of the election campaign and the candidates’ possible campaign themes. David Cameron liked The Jam’s “The Eton Rifles,” but it seems the Brits aren’t any better at actually listening to the songs they’re endorsing. Frontman Paul Weller wasn’t happy about this, and in fact used to refuse to speak to the Telegraph because of its perceived relationship to the Conservatives. Now, he says, “Some of my best friends are Tories.” Not that it matters. As he wisely puts it, “It’s not going to make any difference whoever gets in, it’s all the same. It’s all a stitch up.”