The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

'A voice for the voiceless'
Kiley O’Brien ’25, Assistant Features Editor • July 18, 2024
Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim '25 M.A., Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

The boss, politics, and music

How Bruce Springsteen has come to influence American politics 

Bruce Springsteen was an important presence in the 2016 election, from calling President-Elect Donald Trump a “moron,” to vocally supporting former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and even inspiring #brucethedebate, where Twitter users joked about the candidates using Springsteen lyrics.

Springsteen was first thrown into the political world in 1984 when Republican incumbent Ronald Reagan attempted to use his song “Born in the U.S.A” at one of his campaign rallies. Springsteen demanded that the song not be used during the election process, so Reagan respected Springsteen’s wishes.

Yet the song was played at rallies twice after 1984—Bob Dole attempted to use the song in 1996, and Pat Buchanan in 2000. Both times, Springsteen demanded that the song not be used.

“Born in the U.S.A.” sounds upbeat and patriotic, which explains its appeal in election campaigns; yet, the song has a dark theme. “Born in the U.S.A.” was written as an anti-Vietnam War song dictating the struggles of a young man returning home to the U.S.A. after fighting in the war; the lyrics demonstrate Springsteen’s biting criticism of the government’s treatment of veterans.

Springsteen’s 43-year music career has spanned eight presidential administrations and has contributed to politics in the United States, whether he wanted it to or not.

In an interview with ABC News in 2012, Springsteen compared his political presence to being a canary in a coal mine. He wants to be involved in politics, but only to a certain extent. Springsteen believes people should have their own political beliefs and values and not base them on his opinions.

Springsteen has also been very outspoken against President-Elect Trump. In the Oct. 20 issue of Rolling Stone, Springsteen criticized Trump by calling him a moron. Though Springsteen’s opinions against Trump have been harsh, he has always praised Clinton. In the same Rolling Stone interview, Springsteen said that he believes Clinton would be a good president.

Springsteen went even further to show his support for Clinton by performing at her final campaign rally on Nov. 7 in Philadelphia.

Ethan Catillo, ’18, a Springsteen fan and registered Republican, took Springsteen’s advice to have his own opinions on politics and not to base them off the singer’s. Catillo had no problem with Springsteen supporting Clinton during the election, and did not change his own political beliefs to match Springsteen’s.

“I already knew he was a liberal—he tended to go on long rants at concerts. I didn’t really care for that, but it’s his concert [so] he can do whatever he wants,” Catillo said. “I assumed him and most other celebrities would support [Hillary Clinton] anyways, so it doesn’t really affect how I feel about his music.”

Springsteen played three of his most famous songs at the rally: “Thunder Road” (1975), “Long Walk Home” (2007), and “Dancing in the Dark” (1984).

According to visiting assistant professor of music, theater, and film Catherine Hughes, each song Springsteen chose made a distinct point in this election.

“ [“Thunder Road”] twists the idea of ‘Born in the U.S.A.,’ so instead of a sort of anti-conservative structure, it’s more of a ‘I was born in this working class environment and I made it anyway,’ or, ‘I was born to do more than just be stuck here,’” Hughes said.

“Dancing in the Dark” is a fun song, which Hughes believed Springsteen played to energize the crowd.

“Long Walk Home” was an interesting choice to perform at Clinton’s rally because Springsteen chose to perform this song when he supported Barack Obama’s first campaign in 2008, and the song is a criticism of George W. Bush’s administration.

Hughes also felt that the order Springsteen played the songs was significant.

“‘Thunder Road,’ which is sort of the upbeat ‘I’m better than this,’ then ‘Long Walk Home’ is a commentary on the Republican agenda, then you get ‘Dancing with the Dark’ as a sort of a ‘Hey, we’re gonna do it!’” Hughes said. “It’s sort of a narrative of what you might hope to get out of a Clinton administration.”

Springsteen also talked to the audience for a few minutes on why it is important to vote, reiterating that Clinton is the most qualified candidate and would make all Americans feel important.

Alex Gill, ’18, is also a Springsteen fan, but is a Democrat. He felt proud that Springsteen not only spoke out in support of Clinton, but also encouraged people to get involved in the political process.

“I always think of Bruce as an American icon, so I thought this was a powerful endorsement, and even though that might alienate some of your fans, it’s still your right to do it,” Gill said. Springsteen did mention Trump during the rally, though not by name. He referred to Trump as “her opponent.” According to Springsteen, Trump is egotistical and should only blame himself for his own failures, not the American democratic system.

Springsteen felt that the last time he was this politically active, the country needed him because it was a time of struggle during the Bush administration. He felt that the nation was once again in crisis, so he wanted to try to make a difference during this election.

He has not been vocal on the outcome of the election, but Springsteen will receive a Presidential Medal of Freedom on Nov. 22.  This medal, which is the highest civilian award in the United States, is given to those who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States.”

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Hawk News

Your donation will support the student journalists of St. Joseph's University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Hawk News

Comments (0)

All The Hawk News Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *