Sam’s Town and The Obama Campaign

19Mar10

It’s a weird premise, I know. And I know I’m one of the few people who persistently defends the Killers’ sophomore effort. I read a criticism somewhere that someone had said that the album was something along the lines of “an HBO miniseries on the Dust Bowl starring the cast of Gossip Girl.” And that’s supposed to be a bad thing?

But I never saw the album quite that way. Instead, it seemed to be an almost effeminate take on Bruce Springsteen. There’s a lot of rock and roll clichés in there; trying to escape the small town, troubled childhoods, the whimsically beautiful girl. But the Killers seem very aware of what they are doing. Brandon Flowers doesn’t add the “aww shucks” grit to his voice that so often Springsteen used on late 70s  tracks (I’d argue successfully).

At times, Flowers goes overly simplistic such as on “Uncle Johnny” to the point where the intentional use of cliché becomes problematic; indeed, it takes over an entire song instead of just a lyric or verse. But where Sam’s Town does shine is where it shows genuine reverence for middle-American teenager/early 20-year-old of the past (at times it appears to be recent, at times it’s the 70s, and yes, at times it could even be the Dust Bowl). Which, contrasted against a band from Vegas that broke in the mid-2000s, forms a genuinely unique combination.

I think about this with the Obama campaign because so much has been made of how Obama isn’t really American because he spent his time in Hawaii or Indonesia or New York or Chicago, and thus how could he have respect for the flyover folk?  I think of seeing Obama in that cowboy hat on the cover of the Phoenix

and how my first temptation is to see this as a Dukakis moment, or that it’s a joke. But look again–Obama seems genuinely thrilled to be wearing it, even has a tinge of John Wayne to him.

Anyway, there’s this sad dynamic happening that I was going to write about last week upon re-watching Alexandra Pelosi’s Right America Feeling Wronged. I’m not going to speak to the racism, sexism, and conspiracy theories in the film. They are wrong and should be condemned. But I think the embrace of those ideas came partially from another repeated theme: that the coastal elites already had a low opinion of them, so why should they even bother?

Personally, I tend to be a bit prejudiced against the Red states. I do think they are bastions of racism and often host a toxic combination of religion and politics that actively hurts their constituents. It’s something I try not to let get the best of me; in other words I don’t want to be overcome by the culture war, but I still want to keep my morals. However, Obama I think really did have a reverence for the Red states. One of the books in the canon of Political Communication is Thomas Frank’s “What’s the Matter with Kansas,” which examines why Kansans repeatedly vote against their own interests. It’s a problem of which Obama has a unique understanding, considering his family roots.

One of the things that got forgotten in the wake of Bittergate was that Obama was actually explaining that people “who cling to their guns and religion” were actually really underserved by their government and screwed over economically. So Obama actually really cared about them, despite what his everyday, first-lady, former-boardmember-of-Wal-Mart, opponent may have claimed (sorry, Hill it still hurts).

So what we have here is a trust deficit. But there are people on the left who do genuinely care about right America, and I certainly hope that number grows. Certainly they’ll be useful after the Tea Party and GOP fails yet again.

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One Response to “Sam’s Town and The Obama Campaign”


  1. 1 PoliOlogy Relevancy Watch « PoliOlogy

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