Senator John Mellencamp? Grassroots Movement Swells for
Rocker to Run for Bayh's
by John Nichols
AlterNet.com - February 18, 2010
He's got the home-state credibility and a history of
political engagement that rival any of the
Democratic contenders for the spot.
February 17, 2010 |
The guy who put populist politics on the charts with a song
title "Pink Houses" John Mellencamp performed at the White
House last week, as part of a program titled: "In
Performance at the White House: A Celebration of Music from
the Civil Rights Movement."
The Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame member sang the song "Jim
Crow" with veteran folkie Joan Baez -- as well as a terrific
song version of "Keep Your Eyes on the Prize" -- on a night
that also featured performances by Smokey Robinson, Natalie
Cole, Yolanda Adams, the Five Blind Boys from
Bob Dylan, among others.
That was powerful company, but Mellencamp was up to it.
For the past quarter century, he has been penning and
performing smart, often very political songs -- focusing on
the farm crisis, economic hard times and race relations.
He's been a key organizer of Farm Aid and other fund-raising
events for good causes, and he's been a steady presence on
the campaign trail in recent years, appearing at the side of
numerous Democratic presidential candidates, including
So, could Mellencamp perform in the
Could he be the right replacement for retiring Senator Evan
Forget the blah-blah-blah about celebrities in politics. We
crossed that bridge decades ago.
The question is whether this celebrity makes the right
connections with this state.
Mellencamp certainly has the home-state credibility. Few
rockers have been so closely associated with a state as
Mellencamp has a history of issue-oriented political
engagement that is the rival of any of the Democratic
politicians who are being considered as possible Bayh
And Mellencamp has something else. He has a record of
standing up for disenfranchised and disenchanted working-
class families in places like his hometown of
In other words, he's worthy of the consideration that has
led to talk of a "Draft John Mellencamp" movement. In fact,
he might be just enough of an outlier to energize base votes
and to make independent voters look again at the Democratic
Mellencamp's not making any campaign moves.
He's a savvy player who has been around power politics for a
long time -- he counts Bill Clinton as a pal -- and he's
smart enough (and humble enough) to know that the leap from
rock star to senate candidate is a long one.
But John Hall, the songwriter and leader of the band
And the Republicans have run more than a few actors for jobs
like senator, governor and even president.
Notably, President Ronald Reagan's 1984 reelection campaign
wanted to use the song "Pink Houses" at campaign events. And
John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign did indeed use it,
even as Mellencamp explained that the
not fully "get" the point of the song about working families
living on the backroads of
So Mellencamp has already crossed some partisan and ideological lines.
That's more than can be said for most Senate prospects -- be
they Democrats or Republicans.
John Nichols is The Nation's