09 April 2007

Where is the Singer Songwriter Presidential Candidate?

For my nickel, the singer pales in comparison to the singer songwriter. Oh, there are some amazing voices (folks like Frank Sinatra or Judy Collins or George Strait) able to interpret a song in ways that make you think it's theirs. But musicians like Springsteen or Lennon & McCartney are the folks who define music.

Why mention this in the same breath as politics?

It occurs to me that the current crop of presidential candidates is making the same play as American Idol contestants. They are competing on voice, personality, and their ability to interpret familiar standards like "rely on markets," "support our military," and "improve health care." They're singers, competing against one another on performance and song selection.

What seems missing is the politician who is actually a singer songwriter. Nobody would say that Johnny Cash or Bob Dylan had the kinds of voices that would win on American Idol, but they became icons because of the songs they wrote. Who in the current crop of politicians is promoting new policy in the way that an FDR once did? Who among the current crop might show more genius for policy formulation and philosophy than speeches? I suspect that there is so much voter ambivalence in part because voters have heard most of these songs before.

I'm ready for someone who transcends trade-offs and talks instead about how the confluence of events we find in this unique point of history has made possible something that the average voter hadn't previously thought of.

Leadership suggests at least two things. One, the person has followers. Two, the person is going somewhere those followers are not. Leadership is different from popularity. I'm ready for someone who talks about the art of possibility and doesn't just sing the same tired songs. Enough of choosing between great voices: I'm ready for new songs.

4 comments:

Damon said...

Put me down for being the 1st in line for a singer-songwriter president!

Forget the fireside chat. I'm putting on a fireside presidential acoustic concert every Tuesday evening.

And if you don't watch my show (available via broadband, satellite or FoxNews) I will send you to Guantanamo!

So there.

Ron Davison said...

Damon,
Fine, fine. You can do the music. I know that. But can you do stand up? In this age of Jon Stewart, the polity expects some humor sprinkled in with their politics.

Dave said...

Great idea; but....

Have you noticed that even Obama, the wonderkind of the primaries, doesn't say much? Neither he nor the other candidates have any intention of charting a new political course, at least not in public. The sad reality, I think, is that your candidate wouldn't have a chance in hell of being elected. The basic problem is that you can't articlulate a new course in sound bites and sound bites win elections.

I know, my normal negative self. Sorry.

Ron Davison said...

Dave,
so you're saying that it's even worse? I'm looking for a singer songwriter and you're saying that we don't even have singers - just kazoo players? Policy you can hum to. "Edwards' health care plan has a catchy tune, but it's hard to dance to."