The Ripon Forum

Volume 40, No. 3

June - July 2006 Issue

The Back Page: Can you be a Republican and Still Like The Boss?

By on August 5, 2014 with 0 Comments


I got turned onto Bruce Springsteen the summer before my junior year in college. It was 1984. Born in the USA had come out on June 4th. And my friends and I were on a 10-day road trip to Florida before school started back up in the fall.

My friend Mike was a Bruce fanatic. He had every album, bought every cassette, and, with the release of Born in the USA, bought the CD as well. It took about 19 hours each way to drive from our homes in Youngstown, Ohio, to where we were going in Naples, Florida. We must have listened to Bruce for half of that time.  By the time we got home, my other friends were sick of it. I, on the other hand, like my friend Mike, was hooked.

In the years since, I never became a Bruce fanatic; I’ve only seen him in concert once, and I only own a few of his CDs.  But I remain a fan. And when I hear his music – mainly his older stuff, and primarily the songs that won me over to begin with from Born in the USA – I rarely turn it off and nearly always turn it up. I like his songs for their rhythm and their beat.  But more than anything, I like them for their words.  Probably more any other songwriter, Bruce Springsteen tells stories I can relate to. Stories that remind me of growing up in Youngstown; of steel mills and high school dreams and trying to overcome all of life’s challenges that stand in your way.  In short, his songs inspire me.

"I believe in the love that you gave me. I believe in the faith that could save me. I believe in the hope and I pray that some day it will raise me above these Badlands." Bruce Springsteen
“I believe in the love that you gave me. I believe in the faith that could save me. I believe in the hope and I pray that some day it will raise me above these Badlands.”
Bruce Springsteen

In fact, his songs inspire me much the same way that Ronald Reagan inspired me when he ran for President in 1979.  He spoke in a language that I had never heard a politician speak before. I was 15 at the time; all I knew was Jimmy Carter; all I knew about were hostages and malaise.  Ronald Reagan came along and he spoke of hope. He spoke of faith. He spoke of making our country great again. I became a Republican the day he was inaugurated. And I remain a Republican to this day.

Which brings me to the point of this column, and brings me to the conflict that I, and I suspect many other Republicans, feel – mainly, how can you be a Republican and still like the Boss? After all, here is a man who actively campaigned for John Kerry in 2004, and has been sharply critical of President Bush, as recently as this past spring.  Bruce even snubbed Ronald Reagan during the campaign of 1984.  How can you – or anyone who has worked for and supported the Republican Party for the last quarter century — be a fan of someone who has worked for and contributed to that same party’s defeat?

The late conductor George Szell once said that, “In music one must think with the heart and feel with the brain.”  In politics, just the opposite is true — which is why, for many Republicans, being a fan of Bruce Springsteen means drawing a line between the intellectual reasoning and philosophy that has driven us to the GOP and the passion and inspiration his music makes us feel in our gut. It means saying you were “heartbroken,” by Bruce’s decision to campaign for Kerry – as Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota did on his radio show before the election – but still being able to say you are a fan of the Boss (as Governor Pawlenty says on his official website today). In short, it means being able to separate your heart and your head.

Truth be told, Bruce Springsteen does make me cringe at times. And he sometimes makes me mad.  No doubt, this is and will continue to be true for many other Republicans, as well. But he sure can sing, and, more importantly, he sure knows how to tell a story. 

Regardless of one’s political affiliation, it’s easy to be inspired by that.  RF

Louis M. Zickar is the Editor of the Ripon Forum.

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