The politics of Bruce Springsteen

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:, or follow me on Twitter.

What sort of insane right-wing extremist do you need to be that when you listen to Bruce Springsteen sing about the working class, you decide that he is anti-American?

Like so many baby boomers drifting along as the culture has moved further and further Left in recent decades, Springsteen has become more and more liberal. The tough yet sensitive poet who played the rock and roll clubs of Asbury Park in the 1960s and 1970s, sleeping with women and dealing with gangs and playing to blue-collar audiences, now supports transgender people using whatever bathroom they like, wrote big campaign checks to Hillary, and writes protest songs about Donald Trump.

His reading of Thomson, Anderson, and O’Connor taught him the valuable lesson that America can be a dark and primitive place that often does not live up to its values. What he has missed, however—and it is hilariously outlined in Thompson’s book Pop. 1280–is that politicians and authority figures are often out for themselves, and the less they do the better. This was one of the themes of Ronald Reagan, who once cited Springsteen as a pro-American role model, a speech that sent the Left, and Springsteen, into a rage. Reagan told a small-town audience in Hammond, New Jersey in 1984 that our nation’s future “rests in a thousand dreams inside your hearts. It rests in the message of hope in the songs of a man so many young Americans admire—New Jersey’s own, Bruce Springsteen.”

The rock and roll legend wasn’t impressed. “Well, the president was mentioning my name in his speech the other day,” Springsteen told an audience in Pittsburgh, “and I kind of got to wondering what his favorite album of mine must’ve been, you know? I don’t think it was the Nebraska album. I don’t think he’s been listening to this one.”

Springsteen might have been wrong about that. After all, Reagan, like Springsteen, had grown up poor with a distant and alcoholic father, had taken welfare, and left a small town (in Reagan’s case, Dixon, Illinois) to go into show business. The difference of course is that Reagan never rejected the core values of that small town, or of the country. After Born to Run, the music of Bruce Springsteen preached that happiness was attainable only despite the racism, economic inequality, and conservatism of America. Now in his seventh decade he has become shrill and humorless—a contrast to Reagan, who believed he had become a star because of the USA, not despite her.

The culture has been moving to the left? That is why we have Trump as President?

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