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Mellencamp for Senate

Ronald Radosh

The Nation crowd is touting singer-songwriter John Mellencamp as a proposed candidate most likely to win the Indiana Senate seat that is to be given up by the vacating Evan Bayh. John Mellancamp! Are they kidding? Evidently not.

This is the reasoning they offer: His songs are “an icon of Americana,” and have become, so they claim, “the backbone of populist political movements.” Gee, I thought that honor was reserved for Bruce Springsteen—but the problem is that he hails from New Jersey, which leaves Mellencamp to be acclaimed as the Bruce surrogate in the Hoosier state. Moreover, he has real political credentials. What are they, you may ask? He actually “wrote a letter to John McCain” in which the proposed new Senator asked McCain to “stop political agendas, corporate greed and overall manipulation.” Think of it. McCain might have a political agenda! Since that is obviously bad, they don’t explain whether their magazine or Mellencamp might have one also.

Well, give him that one. Writing a letter shows some political concern. From that step, it’s just an easy skip and jump into the Senate club. And remember, he appeared at Willie Nelson’s Farm Aid, helped the middle class, and best of all, has “rocker sensibility.” Does he know anything about legislating, meeting with constituents, negotiating with Republicans and even other Democrats? Not necessary. The man rock and rolls! What more can you ask? Best of all, “he’s a true populist,” the Left’s answer to Sarah Palin.

Not to be outdone, editor-in-chief and publisher of The Nation Katrina vanden Heuvel went on television this morning, and made public her choice of Mellencamp, whom she said “has had a long track record with working for farmers and demonstrates true populist politics.” Well if Katrina says it herself, it’s the clue for the troops to go all out for Mellencamp.

I wonder, if she had been editor of the magazine in the 30’s and 40’s, whether she would have been pushing to get Woody Guthrie to run for office? The fact is, there is not one person back then who would have made that suggestion, even his comrades in the Communist Party and Pete Seeger. They preferred Woody to function as what he liked doing best, writing and performing songs, and acting as the people’s bard whose lyrics hopefully propelled the left-wing base into working harder for FDR. That was sufficient.

Have they even asked Mellencamp? I don’t think anyone in the press has asked him as yet for a comment. But perhaps while he was at the White House a week ago for the civil rights musical testimonial, he and the President had a moment to toss over the prospect of a Senate run. Who knows? Perhaps he gave the word to vanden Heuvel, and she was chosen to be the one launching a trial balloon? With this administration, after all, anything is possible.

So run John run. Nothing, I think, would make Indiana Republicans happier.

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