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April 28, 2008

Two Requests, Democrats: Pick a Nominee, and No More John Mellencamp Music!


As the Pennsylvania primary concluded Tuesday night with a nine-point victory by Hillary Clinton, reality set in that the campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination is likely to continue for at least another month.


Clinton’s margin of victory was just big enough to keep her from being finished, but not big enough to qualify her as a serious threat to either Barack Obama’s delegate or popular vote lead. Hillary may have picked up 10 pledged delegates, but it merely made a dent in Obama’s lead of nearly 150.


Hillary’s surrogates attempted to muddy the waters the day after the primary, arguing that she, not Obama, had the lead in the popular vote – that is, if you do count Michigan and Florida, and don’t count any caucus states. Of course, if you cherry pick and fudge the numbers enough, and only count the votes you like, you could probably show that Dennis Kucinich is in fact leading. But back on planet Earth, when you actually add up the votes that have been cast and counted under the rules of the contest, Obama maintains a lead of nearly 500,000 votes.


Therefore, the campaign will continue in Indiana and North Carolina on May 6, and most likely will see yet another inconclusive finish in those states. After all, hundreds of superdelegates remain undecided, as the first 42 primaries and caucuses apparently didn’t supply enough information to allow them to make up their minds.


Perhaps most disturbingly? Among the undecided is John Mellencamp. He’s not a superdelegate, but from his visibility this week, you’d think he was the chairman of the DNC.


Indiana’s most famous pop star, Mellencamp announced on the day of the Pennsylvania primary that he would be performing at that night’s Obama rally in Evansville. But after this was reported as an endorsement, the former Johnny Cougar’s representatives made clear that wasn’t the case – and that Mellencamp also planned to perform at a Hillary rally in the Hoosier State at a later date.


Not that Mellencamp isn’t the endorsing type. He had been an enthusiastic supporter of John Edwards during the early primary season, which was not a huge surprise considering that Mellencamp’s recent albums have sounded not unlike Edwards speeches set to music. In fact, one of his songs, “Our Country,” appeared to be the Edwards campaign’s unofficial theme song.


If only that were the end of it. The song played in the hall immediately after Hillary Clinton’s victory speech in Philadelphia? “Our Country.” The song played in the hall immediately after Obama’s Evansville concession speech, with Mellencamp on hand? “Our Country.”


It crosses party lines, too – even John McCain played the song and other Mellencamp tunes at a handful of rallies, before a Mellencamp spokesman requested that, because the singer “identifies very strongly with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party,” McCain might consider dropping Mellencamp’s music from his play list (he did).  


I just wonder who chose “Our Country.” Full of saccharine lyrical platitudes like “I stand beside the ideals I think are right” (doesn’t everybody?), the tune is well-known – and well-loathed – by many Americans due to its appearance in Chevy Silverado ads. The ads are best known for airing roughly every two minutes during the last two years of NFL telecasts, to the point where the song has become a punchline. So why in the world would not one, not two, but four different major presidential campaigns use it to pump up the crowd?


Meanwhile, the man from whom Mellencamp borrowed his entire career, Bruce Springsteen, came out squarely in favor of Obama – albeit not until months later than the state that is the subject of most of his music, New Jersey, had already gone for Hillary.


Then again, using Springsteen music in presidential campaigns has never been much of a success: Everyone remembers Ronald Reagan’s famous misuse of “Born in the USA” in 1984, when he mistook it for a patriotic anthem. John Kerry failed to win 20 years later when using “No Surrender” as his theme song. Also that year, Bruce himself led the “Vote for Change” tour that failed to unseat President Bush.


I ask only two things from the Democrats in the coming months of the campaign: 1) Pick a candidate, and 2) Pick some better theme music.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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