Race for White House in 2016 Starts With Bad Song Choices in Iowa

U.S. Rep. Martha Blackburn, left, and Gov. Scott Walker.

U.S. Rep. Martha Blackburn, left, and Gov. Scott Walker.

We see it every four years: would-be presidential nominees striding into the national spotlight, accompanied by songs they clearly didn’t listen to closely enough. It happened again this weekend at the Iowa Freedom Summit, where Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and gadfly Donald Trump made their appearances with songs that didn’t really fit.

The phenomenon dates in the popular consciousness to 1984, when the Reagan re-election campaign supposedly tried to co-opt Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” That’s not exactly what happened — the real story is rather less straightforward — but versions of it have been occurring ever since, especially in more recent years: George W. Bush used “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty during his 2004 re-election campaign, until the singer issued a cease-and-desist. John McCain in 2008 tried to make a point about gas prices with a TV ad that included “Running on Empty” by Jackson Browne, a noted environmentalist who sued him for it. (McCain also ran afoul of Heart and John Mellencamp, though Abba didn’t seem to mind his use of “Take a Chance on Me.”) And Mike Huckabee drew the ire of Boston guitarist Tom Scholz when he tried to use “More Than a Feeling” in 2008.

In Iowa on Saturday, Walker took the stage to “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” by the Dropkick Murphys, an odd choice for a politician with a reputation as a union-busting proponent of big business. Not only are the Dropkick Murphys ardently pro-union — “We stand beside our Union and Labor brothers and sisters and their families in Wisconsin and all over the U.S.!” the band posted on Facebook in 2012 — they share writing credit on the song with Woody Guthrie, who had a thing or two to say about the predations of businessmen. The Celtic-punk group has already asked Walker to stop using its music with a tweet Saturday night that left little room for misinterpretation: “We literally hate you,” the band wrote.

Though Blackburn was in Iowa more to help fire up the base than as a presidential contender, she still might have preferred something other than her entrance music, “Gone Gone Gone” by “American Idol” Season 11 champ Phillip Phillips, which includes the lyrics, “I’ll lie, cheat, I’ll beg and bribe/ To make you well, to make you well.”

As for Trump, his walk-on song in Iowa, “Get Ready for This,” seems better suited to pumping up crowds in basketball arenas than as a lead-in for threats to seek the GOP nomination again.

Speaking of the GOP, it’s no coincidence that most of the candidates whose song choices get them in trouble are Republicans who pick songs by musicians who don’t share their political outlook. That said, as the campaign continues, Democrats are fair game here, too.

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