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7 Feb 2016

Johnny Cash and the Democrats

I rarely listen to Country & Western music but when I do my favorite singer is, unsurprisingly, Johnny Cash.  And I am far from alone in that.  He was very popular for most of his life.  And that is what I want to talk about.  But a few preliminary comments first:

I have no information on how he voted while he was alive but his close friendship with Jimmy Carter suggests at least some Democrat sympathies. Plus he was a Southerner and the South in his early days  mostly voted Democrat.

But if he was a Democrat he was a sincere one.  Leftist politicians are just parasites in compassionate clothing but in the general population, many Leftist voters probably do have some real compassion for various groups.  The Leftist appeal to compassion would not work otherwise.

Although he was himself never sent to jail, the group that Johnny Cash had compassion for was prisoners.  And, as most will know, he put his money where his mouth was, or, more precisely, he put his mouth where the money was not.  He did many jailhouse concerts and charged nothing for them, even though he could have got big money for them elsewhere. He used his talent to do whatever he could for prisoners.

So what was the secret of his popularity?  There are a number of possible reasons: His marvellous bass-baritone voice plus he was quite good looking in his youth.  He looked a lot like Elvis, in fact.  And the intense romanticism of his songs no doubt helped a lot.

My favorite two songs of his are "Walk the Line" and "ring of fire".  In the first he promises fidelity to his wife and in the second he compares being in love to being surrounded by fire.  Those two songs would probably have some claim to being the greatest love songs ever written, with only "My love is like a red, red rose" by Robert Burns being clearly more deserving of that title.

But the lesson I draw from his work is the great simplicity of his writing.   Each song has simple words that are repeated a lot.  I give the words of both below:

Ring Of Fire Lyrics

Love is a burnin' thing
And it makes a fiery ring
Bound by wild desire
I fell into a ring of fire

I fell into a burnin' ring of fire
I went down, down, down
And the flames went higher
And it burns, burns, burns
The ring of fire, the ring of fire

I fell into a burnin' ring of fire
I went down, down, down
And the flames went higher
And it burns, burns, burns
The ring of fire, the ring of fire

The taste of love is sweet
When hearts like ours meet
I fell for you like a child
Oh, but the fire went wild

I fell into a burnin' ring of fire
I went down, down, down
And the flames went higher
And it burns, burns, burns
The ring of fire, the ring of fire

I fell into a burnin' ring of fire
I went down, down, down
And the flames went higher
And it burns, burns, burns
The ring of fire, the ring of fire
And it burns, burns, burns
The ring of fire, the ring of fire
The ring of fire, the ring of fire
The ring of fire

"I Walk The Line"

I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
I keep my eyes wide open all the time
I keep the ends out for the tie that binds
Because you're mine, I walk the line

I find it very, very easy to be true
I find myself alone when each day is through
Yes, I'll admit that I'm a fool for you
Because you're mine, I walk the line

As sure as night is dark and day is light
I keep you on my mind both day and night
And happiness I've known proves that it's right
Because you're mine, I walk the line

You've got a way to keep me on your side
You give me cause for love that I can't hide
For you I know I'd even try to turn the tide
Because you're mine, I walk the line

I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
I keep my eyes wide open all the time
I keep the ends out for the tie that binds
Because you're mine, I walk the line

And the "freight-train" rhythm of both songs is simple too.  So when extremely simple words and thoughts are immensely popular, can we learn something about politics from that?  I think we can but it is a hard lesson:  Simplicity is attractive.  And the Democrat message is simple indeed.  Listen to Bernie Sanders saying how bad many things are but without making any serious attempt at explaining why they are so or advancing any ideas to fix them that would in fact work.  The Leftist message is simple but wrong.  The conservative message is complex but right.  It's not a happy thought for conservatives.

What can we do about it?  I think we need a great communicator.  Reagan was one and Trump seems to be another.  His messages are simple too, way too simple for policy wonks, but maybe simple enough to win elections.  He is a smart man so if he does win he would almost certainly take well-argued advice and not do anything too foolish





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