Bruce Springsteen is another left-wing rock star but he’s one who has his roots in the kind of blue-collar world that helped Trump win the 2016 election. In an interview with the Sunday Times, Springsteen was asked about the up-coming 2020 election and said that, at the moment, he doesn’t see anyone on the left who can beat Trump. From CNN:
“I don’t see anyone out there at the moment … the man who can beat Trump, or the woman who can beat Trump,” Springsteen said of the potential 2020 Democratic field. “You need someone who can speak some of the same language [as Trump] … and the Democrats don’t have an obvious, effective presidential candidate.”…
Dismiss Springsteen as just another liberal rock star if you will (and he is!), but also remember that Springsteen’s roots are in a working-class, blue-collar community — and that he has spent his entire life writing about and trying to explain the hopes, fears and anxieties of those communities to the country and the world.
Trump spoke to those fears and hopes in a very direct and real way during the 2016 campaign. He won the White House thanks to victories in the industrial Midwest — Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio — that was hit the hardest by the rapidly changing 21st-century economy and the crushing blows it dealt to the manufacturing sector.
That analysis comes from CNN’s Chris Cillizza and for once I think he has a point. Undercutting Trump’s base is going to take someone who can connect with that base and it’s unlikely that Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren or Kamala Harris will be able to do that. The Democratic Party is moving left and that means the mostly white working class in these rust-belt states are likely to feel even more left behind than they did in 2016.
Springsteen gave another recent interview to Esquire magazine in which he talked more generally about Trump. What’s interesting about this isn’t the knee-jerk anti-Trump stance but Springsteen’s awareness that maybe this is a problem for both sides of the aisle now.
If you could, I say to him, make one request of citizens in this country right now, what would it be?
A long silence follows. Springsteen turns back to the mirror and, at the same time, draws both of his booted feet up to the edge of the couch. He resembles a man squatting beside a campfire, watching flames. “I think that a lot of what’s going on has been a large group of people frightened by the changing face of the nation. There seems to be an awful lot of fear. The founding fathers were pretty good at confronting their fears and the fears of the country. And it’s the old cliché where geniuses built the system so an idiot could run it. We are completely testing that theory at this very moment. I do believe we’ll survive Trump. But I don’t know if I see a unifying figure on the horizon. That worries me. Because the partisanship and the country being split down the middle is something that’s gravely dangerous. To go back to your question, what would my wish be? [Sighs] It’s corny stuff, but: Let people view themselves as Americans first, that the basic founding principles of the country could be adhered to, whether it’s equality or social justice. Let people give each other a chance.”
You can blame Trump for the disunity all you want, but ultimately Springsteen hints at the fact that both sides of the aisle are behaving as partisans. Is there anyone on the left who is promoting unity rather than running harder to the left and demonizing their opponents? Again, it’s not Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren or Kamala Harris. Who is the left’s unity candidate? Beto O’Rourke? Hillary 4.0? Like Springsteen, I don’t see that person on the horizon.