A concept that used to be inconceivable back in the good old days of “Reaganism”, does the increasing use of copyrighted popular music in US Presidential campaigns mere kitsch, or does it expose the ugliness of American politics?
By: Vanessa Uy
The trend probably first gained widespread media notice during the 1992 Clinton-Gore campaign ticket using Fleetwood Mac’s Don’t Stop (you know the lines: “Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow…”). But the 2008 US Presidential Race has made the issue of using copyrighted popular music in campaign ads an especially contentious one, especially the Republican McCain-Palin campaign ticket’s practice of “drafting” songs like Van Halen’s Right Now and Heart’s Barracuda instead of nicely seeking permission from the artists themselves. Instead, the GOP ticket drafted these songs like the way they use young Americans in their prime as cannon fodder for Halliburton and KBR. If this isn’t bad enough, Senator John “The Manchurian Candidate” McCain even used Jackson Browne’s Running on Empty on an anti-Obama political campaign ad highlighting Senator Barack Obama’s lack of experience. McCain did this without asking permission from Jackson Browne which is a sure sign of GOP-style hypocrisy given McCain and his ilk's propensity of admonishing musicians inspired by Woody Guthrie’s “socialist” views. A move that’s even worse than McCarthyism.
Maybe the Democratic Party always has a penchant for doing things like this right. Like Senator Barack Obama’s choice of using Stevie Wonder’s 1973 R&B classic Signed, Sealed and Delivered. A song brimming with an eternally optimistic view on life, which surprisingly doesn’t sound corny in comparison to the song’s hackneyed brethren.
So far, the Democrats had managed to avoid the pettiness of their GOP rivals by officially releasing ads criticizing their rival candidates that utilized copyrighted popular music. To me, it would be very interesting if the Democrats ever attempt to pull-off such an undertaking. Especially the Lunachicks’ song Spoilt is ripe for the taking as an almost biographical critique of the 8 years worth of George W. Bush’s miserable failure - which the GOP’s Vice Presidential candidate and Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin affectionately termed as the Bush Doctrine. Or what about Lunachicks’ Fallopian Rhapsody as a critique for Governor Sarah Palin’s anti-feminist Heinrich Himmler inspired Lebensborn pro-life stance. Given the choices, how long can the Democrats resist to be drawn into such political pettiness, or maybe the Democrats are a better bunch of people than I am? Maybe the message is Washington D.C. will never be like your private listening den or I-pod.