Trump, Sanders, and a Neil Young Song

Neil YoungDonald Trump announced his run for the presidency last week. I am of the opinion that we should take him just as seriously as any of the other Republican presidential candidates. The only thing that he lacks is actual experience, which is also true of many of the Republicans running. He’s a deeply unserious person. But I don’t see how that sets him apart from the others. The Republican Party has decided to abandon any notion of leadership and to simply pander to its crazy (elite created) base. Trump is as good on that score as anyone else.

Donald TrumpBut there has been a bit of a dust up about the announcement. You see, Trump used Neil Young’s song, “Rockin’ in the Free World.” Neil Young didn’t like that. His management spokesmen said, “Neil Young, a Canadian citizen, is a supporter of Bernie Sanders for President of the United States of America.” Two things here. First, aren’t Canadians great? Second, isn’t Neil Young great? Of course he would support Bernie Sanders. That’s because all right thinking people support Bernie Sanders because he’s a good guy with good policies that vast majorities of Americans support — if only they could get past labels and listen.

It’s interesting that Trump would pick “Rockin’ in the Free World.” The song is very much like Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA”: it is highly critical of the United States but people have picked it up as a great patriotic anthem because they only know the refrain. The song was originally released in 1989 — the first year of George HW Bush’s presidency. And it has rather direct lyrics like: “We got a thousand points of light; For the homeless man; We got a kinder, gentler, machine gun hand.” And note: the elder Bush was almost unimaginably more reasonable than the current crop of Republicans.

After Neil Young complained about the use of his song by Trump, the campaign responded, “Through a license agreement with ASCAP, Mr Trump’s campaign paid for and obtained the legal right to use Neil Young’s recording of ‘Rockin’ in the Free World’ at today’s event.” And I’m sure that’s right. Young has an estimated net worth of $65 million. You don’t accumulate that kind of cash without being a whore. And in the modern world, whores don’t get to choose who they put out for. This is not a criticism of Young; we are all whores; that is what capitalism does to people.

Bernie SandersBut the whole thing is such a great example of Donald Trump’s campaign. What is it that qualifies him to run for office? He’s rich. He can buy credibility just as easily as he can buy Neil Young’s song and pretend that it means the opposite of what it does. But it also speaks to Trump in the wider sense of Republican politicians. They are all so incredibly unhip, but they think they can trick the rest of us by talking about the NASCAR owners they know or surrounding themselves with music that you know they don’t listen to when they are alone.

The hippest person now running for president is the guy who doesn’t even try: Bernie Sanders. Because nothing is as hip as knowing who you are. Of course, that doesn’t stop Sanders from being an excellent politician. After the whole Trump-Young brouhaha, he used it to his advantage, “Bernie Sanders took down Donald Trump and took back ‘Rockin’ In The Free World’ by using the song with Neil Young’s permission at his rally in Denver.” And there was this juicy bit of reportage:

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are complete opposites. Bernie Sanders is running a campaign that is about giving voice and power back to the people. Trump is running because he is, “really, really rich.” Bernie Sanders is generating overflow crowds for each of his rallies. Donald Trump had to pay actors to come to his rally and cheer for him. Bernie Sanders is a serious public servant who has spent decades fighting for ordinary Americans. Donald Trump is a reality TV buffoon who is most famous for saying “You’re fired.”

Another difference is that Bernie Sanders doesn’t need the song. But he has a right to it that extends past Trump’s right to license it.

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